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A Dene filmmaker and his 'Cold Road' to Indigenous representation on screen

Cold Road is a thriller that tells the story of an Indigenous woman and her dog being hunted by a stranger in a semi-truck on a frozen highway in the remote Canadian North.  (Courtesy of IndigiFilm/Level Film - image credit)
Cold Road is a thriller that tells the story of an Indigenous woman and her dog being hunted by a stranger in a semi-truck on a frozen highway in the remote Canadian North. (Courtesy of IndigiFilm/Level Film - image credit)

Dene filmmaker Kelvin Redvers wants audiences of his latest movie to sit on the edge of their seats.

An isolated, snow-covered highway in the middle of northern Canada sets the scene for Cold Road, a thriller that tells the story of an Indigenous woman and her dog who, while driving home to her remote First Nation to visit her dying mother, is hunted down by a stranger in a semi-truck.

Released in January, the film is currently being screened in 18 movie theatres across Canada, including B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick.

Hailing from Hay River, N.W.T., Redvers said he loves – and feels particularly inspired by – thriller movies from the '70s and '80s. He wanted to be a filmmaker since his teens, but didn't see people who looked like him or places familiar to him on the big screen.

"I'm from a place where it takes forever to drive places; I think a lot of Canadians know it can be three hours sometimes to drive from town to town," he said.

"But what if you put those two worlds together?"

Dene filmmaker Kelvin Redvers said his newest film "Cold Road" took inspiration from early Steven Spielberg and Coen Brothers flicks like “Duel” and “Blood Simple.”
Dene filmmaker Kelvin Redvers said his newest film "Cold Road" took inspiration from early Steven Spielberg and Coen Brothers flicks like “Duel” and “Blood Simple.”

Dene filmmaker Kelvin Redvers said his newest film Cold Road took inspiration from early Steven Spielberg and Coen Brothers flicks. (Aaron Sousa/CBC)

Filming primarily took place in Hay River, N.W.T., but some scenes were shot in Calgary and Athabasca, Alta., located 145 kilometres north of Edmonton.

Redvers took inspiration from early Steven Spielberg and Coen Brothers flicks like Duel and Blood Simple. Modern movies, he said, often feel artificial with CGI, so he wanted the film to get back to basics. All outdoor scenes in the movie were filmed in cold weather, including the stunt sequences and actions scenes, he said.

The storyline touches on themes like missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and the overall fear of driving alone on a snowy highway at night.

"It's everything you would think of when you think of a thriller, but then add in things that you just don't normally see on a movie screen, like the Indigenous female leads," Redvers said.

One of the film's draws is its all-Indigenous cast and crew. Having that was important, Redvers said, because it's rare to see in the current movie industry.

It is starting to change, he said.

"There's been a lot of movement and there's been some really great indie Canadian Indigenous films," Redvers said.

Cree and Metis actress Roseanne Supernault said it's crucial to include Indigenous people in as many roles and positions as possible when it comes to creating movies and TV pertaining to Indigenous narrative.
Cree and Metis actress Roseanne Supernault said it's crucial to include Indigenous people in as many roles and positions as possible when it comes to creating movies and TV pertaining to Indigenous narrative.

Cree and Metis actress Roseanne Supernault said it's crucial to include Indigenous people in the creation of films and TV shows centred around Indigenous narratives. (CBC)

The film stars Cree and Metis actress Roseanne Supernault in the lead role of Tracy, alongside Caribou the dog, as Pretzel.

Supernault is known for her roles in the television series Blackstone and the 2013 film Maïna.

In an interview on CBC's Radio Active on Thursday, she said it's crucial to have Indigenous people in various roles and positions in the creation of films and TV shows centred around Indigenous narratives.

"When we are telling our stories, we are bringing our spirits, our energy, our ancestors with us as well and they're present with us," Supernault said.

"I think that Cold Road — in a lot of ways — can be a touchstone to how Indigenous cinema can be approached, how it can be delivered, how it can be manifested."

Intense reactions have been pouring in since the movie's release last month, said Redvers. He said he's heard stories of audiences hiding under their hoods, and jumping out of their seats while watching the movie.

One woman nearly broke her husband's hand from squeezing it so hard, he said.

"You make movies to make people feel and go on an experience and I think that's what we've been able to do," Redvers said.

The movie will be released on digital platforms later this year.