Dene filmmaker releases first feature-length thriller, Cold Road

If it were up to him, Kelvin Redvers would have made his first feature film years ago.

But the Dene filmmaker, who has been working in the film and television industry for two decades, has finally released his directorial debut called Cold Road.

“It takes all of us (sometimes) three, four or maybe five years to get to making one of these,” says Redvers on the latest episode of Face to Face.

Largely because of the hurdles along the way.

“I’ve been in rooms with industry distributers, with people who make movies,” he says, “and they just look at me in the eye and say, ‘Movies like this aren’t successful’ or that ‘Indigenous stories aren’t financially viable, so we aren’t going to make your movie.’

“It’s frustrating,” adds Redvers, a member of Deninu K’Ue First Nation in the Northwest Territories, “and I think we would all like to get past that. And the only way to move the needle is (to have) lots of people watching them and making these movies successful.”

Cold Road is a thriller about an Indigenous woman and her dog being hunted by a stranger in a semi-truck on an isolated highway in the North.

The film, starring Alberta Cree-Métis actress Roseanne Supernault, is now available for rent or purchase on streaming platforms.

Cold Road has had a successful run in movie theatres, especially in smaller places like North Battleford, Sask., Lethbridge, Alta., and Redver’s hometown of Hay River, NWT.

“When I grew up, I would go visit my Dene aunties and on the shelves covering the entire home, there would be VHS tapes of pulpy thrillers from the 60s, 70s, the 80s, the 90s – and it always felt that us, as Indigenous folks, that we never got to be in those types of movies,” says Redvers.

“That was the goal, to make a thriller that could feel like those type of pulpy thrillers, those classic movie thrillers. But it’s the modern day, and we want to put these types of movies in the modern context of what people like us, what Indigenous folks, face.”

The film touches on topical issues like the thorny relationship between Indigenous peoples and the police, and the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Redvers says Cold Road was a challenging film to shoot.

It was shot on location around Hay River, which is located about 200 km south of Yellowknife. Some days the temperature would drop to -30 C. Other times, it would plunge even further forcing filming to stop.

The film was produced, written and directed by an Indigenous director and starring an Indigenous lead character for a mainstream audience.

Redvers feels this is the type of movie of the future but acknowledges it’s a slow climb.

“Even before, you’d have non-Indigenous actors playing Indigenous roles, slowly, we’re getting out of that,” he says.

“It’s steps; now we have more Indigenous actual actors playing Indigenous roles; we have more stories from Indigenous novels, from writers; now it’s getting to more Indigenous writers and directors. I think the next big step is producers and the productions companies so it’s led (by Indigenous peoples) from the start.”

In 2022, Redvers founded IndigiFilm Media, alongside producer Mark Miller.

Cold Road is their first project and they have others in development alongside such partners as eOne and APTN.

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