Two instructors from the UNM-Gallup campus have found a unique way of bringing their own special brand of Native American culture to the Hollywood scene. Assistant Professors Joe Kee and Jennifer Wheeler are working in conjunction with the Navajo Nation Museum, Navajo Parks and Recreation and Lucasfilm Ltd., to dub the classic space film "Star Wars" into the Navajo language.
Kee and Wheeler are two of five production assistants who have translated the script of the movie into Navajo. Kee and Wheeler are the only two of the five translators who are not only fluent speakers, but can also write and read Navajo.
The partnering entities are planning on dubbing the movie into the Navajo language using a group of Navajo-speaking members of the tribe as voice-over actors. Auditions were held and actors have been chosen for the roles of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Han Solo, C-3PO, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Grand Moff Tarkinwill.
Kee and Wheeler recently returned from Burbank, Calif. where they recorded the translated script which will then be used as a tool for those actors who may not be able to read Navajo. Actors will listen to the recordings to assist them in memorizing their lines. The actors will then dub their voices into the original movie. The next production step will be to sync the lip movements with the Navajo words, which will be challenging for the dubbing director. To ensure that the adaptation is done well, the director will collaborate closely with a team of Navajo linguists.
The Navajo Nation plans on showing the Navajo "Star Wars" to area school children to promote interest in learning their native language. Part of the inspiration for the translation is to encourage excitement about learning the Navajo language in an attempt to keep the language alive across generations.
The premiere of the Navajo version of "Star Wars" will be at the Fourth of July Celebration and PRCA ProRodeo in Window, Rock, Ariz. Both Kee and Wheeler will be in attendance to celebrate their contribution towards sharing and preserving the Navajo language and culture.