An organizer of Friday night's red-carpet premiere of The Revenant in Yellowknife is warning attendees in advance about the graphic violence depicted in the film, including a scene in which the character played by Melaw Nakehk'o, a Dene actress from Fort Simpson, is sexually assaulted.
"There will be a counsellor available during the screening, so if anyone feels triggered and needs somebody to talk to, she will be available to offer her support," said Mandee McDonald, a founding member of Dene Nahjo, one of the organizers and co-sponsor of the event.
The sold-out screening at the Capitol Theatre will come just hours after Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of Indigenous Affairs, meets in Yellowknife with families of missing and murdered indigenous women about what they want to see in the federal government's upcoming national inquiry.
"I think it will be on a lot of people's minds," said McDonald of the meeting.
"Melaw was also involved in the Walking With Our Sisters exhibit. So I think a lot of people at the film will kind of maybe be in that mindset, too. It might be especially impactful."
The Revenant stars Leonardo DiCaprio as an 1820s frontiersman struggling to survive in the northern United States wilderness after he's left for dead by his companions following a bear attack. Critics' reviews have applauded the movie's artistry but consistently point to its unflinching scenes of violence.
Nakehk'o's character, the daughter of an Arikara warrior who crosses paths with DiCaprio's Hugo Glass, is one of the film's few female characters and is shown being raped by a French fur trapper. One reviewer cited the scene as "the only one that truly shocked and disturbed me. It's the one that lingers."
Premiere tickets sold out in 1 week
After weeks of built-up buzz and awards talk, The Revenant finally goes into wide release in North America today and will begin its regular screenings at the Capitol on Saturday afternoon.
Friday's premiere screening at the Capitol sold out within a week after the 230 tickets went on sale on Dec. 28.
The event will kick off with a one-hour red-carpet reception and a performance by drummers from the Yellowknives Dene First Nation.
A panel discussion about indigenous people's representation on film will follow the screening, with Nakehk'o taking part.
Advance tickets for an afterparty at The Top Knight have also sold out, though McDonald said around 10 rush tickets will be available at the front door starting at 10 p.m.
According to a release from Dene Nahjo, the afterparty will feature "a Revenant-themed photo booth where attendees can have their photo taken among traps and furs."