ISO delegates make impact at Cannes, winning doc award and promoting cultural awareness for red carpet attire - ISO-BEA

Toronto – The Indigenous Screen Office (ISO) supported a strong Indigenous presence at the 75th Festival de Cannes, working with multiple partners to create impact for both participants and the festival.

In collaboration with Telefilm Canada, the ISO brought Nyla Innuksuk (Inuk) to participate in the impACT Lab, which fosters international co-production opportunities and guides producers to create meaningful and sustainable films. Delegate Jennifer Wickham (Wet’suwet’en) was selected to pitch at Docs-in-Progress where curated selections of documentary films are showcased in their final stages.

Wickham’s film Yintah, about Wet’suwet’en land protectors, won the Think-Film Impact Award, and will now receive a personalized strategic impact workshop and impact pitching coaching session. Yintah is co-directed and co-produced with Michael Toledano and Brenda Mitchell, along with co-producer Franklin Lopez. 

“This is such an important and personal project about my community and family, and the fight to protect our land against a fracked gas pipeline,” said Wickham, Yintah producer. “We had an incredible response from industry members at Cannes and we are thrilled that the festival chose to honour us with this award.”

The top Docs-in-Progress award went to Twice Colonized, co-produced by the Inuit team of Alethea Arnaquq-Baril and Stacey Aglok MacDonald for Red Marrow Media, an international collaboration with Greenland and Denmark. 

“This was the ISO’s first initiative at Cannes as we work with partners to develop our larger international market strategy. As the Docs-in-Progress winners clearly demonstrate, there is an expansive international market to tap into for Indigenous-created content,” said Kerry Swanson, Co-Executive Director of the ISO.

The Indigenous Screen Office also provided support to a delegation of emerging producers attending through the FILMBA program, led by Doreen Manuel, Director of the Bosa Centre for Film and Animation at Capilano University in B.C. In collaboration with the Black Screen Office – and producers Damon D’Olivera, Trish Dolman and Christine Haebler – participants were provided with a full program of sessions from international sales agents, distributors and programmers, in addition to programs offered at the Canadian Pavilion. 

“Attending Cannes was an incredible opportunity for up-and-coming producers. The entire delegation benefited greatly and got to experience the abundant opportunities for their work in the global market,” said Manuel. 

ISO/FILMBA delegate Kelvin Redvers (Dene) also had an opportunity to turn a negative experience into a win for Indigenous representation at Cannes. Redvers was turned away from a red carpet screening for wearing his hand-made moccasins with the requisite tuxedo. 

Following this event, ISO worked with Telefilm to engage in an immediate dialogue with Cannes Marche du Film’s Secretary General François Desrousseaux, where Redvers explained the cultural significance of the moccasin as cultural attire and Swanson spoke about the work of the ISO. Redvers was invited to attend the gala screening for David Cronenberg’s premiere, where he wore his moccasins. ISO has offered to provide more examples of Indigenous attire for future policy. 

“It was hurtful and I was quite shocked but I’m glad the festival saw the importance of me representing my culture and celebrating that at the gala. I look forward to seeing more cultural representation at festival red carpet events without incident,” said Redvers. 

“The Indigenous delegation had an incredibly positive experience at Cannes so it was disappointing to see a delegate turned away at a red carpet event,” said Swanson. “The Cannes leadership responded swiftly and we greatly appreciated the end result, and the opportunity to exchange dialogue and cultural understanding. We look forward to continuing our presence at the festival.”