FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — “Star Wars,” the classic 1977 film that launched a science fiction empire, has been dubbed in Japanese, French, Spanish and about a dozen other languages. Add Navajo to the list.
Manuelito Wheeler, director of the Navajo Nation Museum who reached out to Lucasfilm Ltd. with the idea, sees it as entertaining, educational and a way to preserve the Navajo language at a time when fewer tribal members are speaking it.
Native languages on the big screen are a rarity. Independent films and documentaries at film festivals have been in the tongue of American Indian tribes. Yet it’s far less common to see it done in mainstream movies and shown in commercial theaters. “Bambi” was dubbed in the Arapaho language, and the cartoon series “The Berenstain Bears” was translated into the Dakota and Lakota languages.
A team of five Navajo speakers spent 36 hours translating the script for “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” and now they’re looking for fluent Navajo speakers to fill some two dozen roles.
Potential actors shouldn’t worry if they don’t sound exactly like Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker or Han Solo, only that they have Princess Leia’s spunk or Han Solo’s daring.
The first opportunity to see the film in Navajo will be during the tribe’s Fourth of July activities in Window Rock, Ariz.