Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Dene filmmaker Kelvin Redvers knows all too well about the dangers of driving on remote Canadian highways.
During his early 20s, Redvers, a member of the Deninu Kųę́ First Nation in the Northwest Territories, totaled a pickup truck that he was driving when it flipped over on an icy road. It took almost half an hour for another vehicle to come by and rescue him.
Redvers latest film, Cold Road, has more than its share of frightening encounters on remote roads in the far north.
The film features Tracy, an Indigenous woman played by Roseanne Supernault, an actor from Whitefish River Atikameg First Nation in Alberta.
Tracy and her dog Pretzel embark on a 12-hour car ride so she can try to reach her remote home in the Northwest Territories in time to see her mother before she passes into the spirit world following a stroke.
Along the journey Tracy must fight for her own life when she realizes she is being chased and hunted by a truck driver.
Cold Road begins its theatrical run in independent theatres across Canada on Jan. 26. The film will be shown in Redvers’ hometown of Hay River, N.W.T.
It will also start screening that day in the Nunavut capital Iqaluit, the Yukon capital Yellowknife, as well as a pair of Alberta cities, Red Deer and Lethbridge.
Cold Road will then start playing in six other theatres throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan on Feb. 2.
“I think it’s a really great first set of theatres,” Redvers said. “Audiences will connect with this movie in places where there is a mix of both northern populations or Indigenous populations or kind of rural. I grew up in the Northwest Territories. And I’m sure a lot of Canadians know what it’s like to drive on cold, snowy, remote highways and the dangers that come with that.”
In his thriller, Redvers takes that scenario even further with a young woman pursued by a stranger.
Cold Road had its world premiere at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver on Jan. 15. It was also screened at the Yellowknife International Film Festival this past October.
“I want people to have a movie experience, to feel entertained and tense and engaged,” Redvers said. “The types of comments that I’ve appreciated most after screenings is like a couple will come up and the husband will say ‘My wife was squeezing my hand so hard she almost broke my wrist’.”
Redvers, who is 37 and now lives in Vancouver, said Hollywood thrillers have a habit of retelling the same stories over and over again.
He wanted his thriller to be different and opted to put an Indigenous woman as the lead and have her encounter challenging situations out in the middle of nowhere.
“I feel like that’s what drew me to want to make this story,” he said. “And I think anybody, if they just imagine what a situation like that would be, there’s just a compelling dramatic situation to it.”
Redvers also raves about the performance of Pretzel in the movie. The dog’s real name is Karibou.
Redvers’ sister Juniper had rescued Karibou from an animal shelter in Yukon four years ago. Karibou is a border collie mixed with other unknown breeds, so is called a Yukon Special.
“I had fallen in love with my sister’s dog immediately,” Redvers said. “And I felt he was a movie star. So, when I wrote this movie I knew there was going to be a dog character. And I wrote the movie for my sister’s dog even though he didn’t have any movie training. He had never been in a movie before.”
Others had urged Redvers to use a pre-trained movie dog for his film. But he opted to work with Karibou instead.
“He knocked everybody’s socks off,” Redvers said. “All of the dog trainers were like, ‘oh my god, this is a special dog’. And he genuinely steals the show in a lot of the scenes.”
Redvers added audience members were praising the dog following the film’s Vancouver screening.
“Several people have said this is one of the best dog performances I have ever seen,” he said. “And I agree.”
Redvers said the shooting of the film provided challenges.
“Everything moved slow,” he said. “We filmed in late winter in the Northwest Territories expecting it to be mild, like minus 5 to minus 10. But it was like minus 20, minus 25 a lot of the time when we were filming at night. So, when it’s minus 25 at night, everything just moves slower. It took longer to do everything.”
Redvers believes the frigid filming conditions enhance the movie.
“We all can tell when we’re watching a Hollywood movie where they pretend that everybody is cold and they’re just like fake shivering,” he said. “And the breath is (computer generated) whereas you don’t get that from this movie. You feel the rawness of actually us filming at night in winter in the far north.”
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