A Dene filmmaker said he was “disappointed” and “crying” when security guards prevented him from walking the red carpet in a pair of moccasins at the Cannes Film Festival.
Kelvin Redvers, a Vancouver-based producer who was visiting Cannes as part of a delegation of six Indigenous filmmakers, said he was refused entry to the carpet for Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s Les Amandiers last Sunday because the festival’s staff was ignoring its traditional Indigenous do not approve of footwear.
He says he was only allowed to walk the carpet if he traded his moccasins for a pair of formal shoes, which Cannes deemed appropriate.
Redvers was obliged, but he hopes that sharing his experience will make Cannes organizers reconsider what counts as formal attire when it comes to representing different cultures on their red carpets.
“Whenever an opportunity arises — whether it’s an awards ceremony or a special event — it’s really important to me to be able to bring a little bit of my Dene heritage to the table,” he said.
“My goal was to wear my suit, bow tie and Dene moccasins, which are formal, they’re cultural. And they’re still kind of elegant and classy. I had no reason to think they wouldn’t fit on the red carpet.”
Cannes is notoriously strict about formal attire at many of its red carpet premieres – black ties are required for men and evening dresses for women – but some traditional formal wear, such as Scottish kilts and Indian sarees, will be honored.
The festival once outlined some of the expectations for formal wear on its website, but in recent years – after a series of controversies, including one that saw women wear flats instead of heels – official guidelines have all but disappeared online.
Ahead of Sunday’s screening, Redvers said he met up with his castmates to take photos in their tuxedos and moccasins. The group, who were in Cannes with support from Telefilm, the Indigenous Screen Office and Capilano University’s FILMBA program, then walked the red carpet.
After passing through the first security checkpoint, Redvers took off his pair of street shoes and slipped into his moccasins. Then security stopped him at a second checkpoint.
Various levels of Cannes red carpet officials were brought in to assess the situation, Redvers says, while a French-speaking member of his cohort tried to explain to security: “This is cultural dress, this is traditional. They just didn’t hear it.”
“At some point, a security guard just reached his breaking point,” says Redvers.
“He just switched gears and was … angry and immediately demanded that I go in an aggressive and angry tone and said, ‘Go, go, you have to go now.'”
Festival officials did not respond to requests for comment.
After the heated moment, Redvers decided he still wanted to attend the screening, so he took off his moccasins and headed to the theater.
“I was so disappointed that it actually distracted me during the film,” he says.
“I just couldn’t stop thinking about not being able to represent my culture on the red carpet of this world stage.”
“I was close to tears and quite upset,” he added.
After members of Telefilm and the Indigenous Screen Office at Cannes complained about the treatment of the filmmakers, Redvers said leadership agreed to meet with them and apologize for the negative experience.
“I think it was a productive meeting,” he said.
“It’s an educational time because they just haven’t understood what moccasins are and why they are important. (They) just mistook them for slippers, which they said a couple of times.
Cannes officials invited him to wear his moccasins to the red carpet premiere of David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future the following night. When a security guard refused his shoes during this check, a senior officer intervened and let him down on the carpet.
“That was probably the most satisfying moment of the festival,” he says.
“To be able to rock the Mocs on the red carpet.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 28, 2022.
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