Film that tackles the world’s fascination with Native people set for national release

Monday, June 10th, 2024 11:23am


Image Caption

Filmmaker Neil Diamond visits Paris while making Red Fever.
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

For Indigenous filmmaker Neil Diamond, it’s not in his nature to be preachy.

But messages still come out loud and clear in his latest film Red Fever, which is set for its national theatrical release this month.

In the film, Diamond, a member of the Cree Nation of Waskaganish in Quebec, travels to a number of countries to discover why people are so fascinated with the stereotypical image of Natives.

“My suspicions were confirmed in a lot of places for sure, especially in Europe,” Diamond said. “Especially in Germany and eastern Europe, in the Balkans, and pretty much everywhere I went outside of North America. They’re still interested and really fascinated in the lives of Native people, especially in North America.”

Included in Diamond’s travels was a trip to Kansas City. He went to a bar during a National Football League contest involving the hometown Kansas City Chiefs.

Chiefs’ fans have a tradition of doing the Tomahawk Chop, a gesture in which they move an arm up and down in a chopping motion while chanting.

Many critics argue the chop and chant are racist gestures that maintain offensive stereotypes about Native Americans.

Though he shrugs into the camera during this scene, Diamond said he felt uncomfortable at the location, primarily because he doesn’t hang out in bars where patrons are being fanatical about their team.

“I was never offended by what people do, appropriating our culture and everything,” Diamond said. “Most people, from where I come from here, they’re more amused and (thinking) ‘what’s with that?’ That’s because our culture is still pretty strong.”

Red Fever co-director Catherine Bainbridge said Diamond is not one to criticize others for their actions.

“Neil’s approach is a very Cree approach, in my view from my understanding and learning, that it’s a very non-shaming approach,” said Bainbridge, an Irish settler who is married to Ernie Webb, an executive producer of the film who is a member of the Cree Nation of Chisasibi on the eastern shore of James Bay.

Neil “doesn’t shame anybody. So, it’s a great way to invite people into the room to have these deeper discussions.”

Bainbridge said an increasing number of non-Indigenous people are looking for the truth with what really happened within Indigenous peoples in North America.

“What I hope they get out of this is truly understanding the depth of influence, Indigenous influence, on western civilization,” she said. “Quite frankly, that’s what I think the film really is about on some level.”

Bainbridge is hoping non-Indigenous viewers of Red Fever end up with a couple of takeaways.

“One, that if you understand from your heart, you’ll be able to make these decisions yourself, regarding appropriation,” she said. “You’ll understand why it’s not right to buy certain things and wear certain things or take certain things. And then you’ll also have a deeper understanding of the influence.”

Bainbridge is also hoping Red Fever proves to be educational for Indigenous people, especially younger generations.

“A lot of these stories, young people aren’t going to know either of these histories and this influence,” she said. “So, we hope that is something that Indigenous folks take away from it.”

Red Fever will screen at select Cineplex theatres across the Canada starting on June 14.

Locations and ticket information can be viewed here:

The film will also screen at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto and a pair of Montreal theatres, Cinema du musee and Cinematheque quebecoise, again starting on June 14.

And then on June 21, the film will start to screen at the VIFF Centre in Vancouver.

Earlier this spring, Red Fever was seen at the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto. It was then shown at DOXA, a documentary film festival in Vancouver last month.

Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.