1964 Western to Premiere in Navajo

'A Fistful of Dollars' is just the third major film dubbed in the language
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 4, 2021 7:15 PM CDT
Navajo Cast Dubs Western That Left Out Native Actors
Theo Towne auditions for a voice role in the dubbing in 2019.   (Manuelito "Manny" Wheeler/Navajo Nation Museum via AP)

Manuelito Wheeler isn't sure why Navajo elders admire Western films. It could be that many of them were treated to the films in boarding schools off the reservation decades ago. Some, like his father, tell of gathering around a television growing up to watch gunslingers in a battle between good and evil on familiar-looking landscapes. Whatever the reason, the AP reports, Navajo elders have been asking Wheeler to dub a Western in the Navajo language ever since Star Wars IV: A New Hope was translated into Navajo and released in 2013. Now there's Béeso Dah YiníljaaA Fistful of Dollars, an iconic Western starring Clint Eastwood.

In the film, Eastwood who plays a stranger—known as “The Man With No Name"—entering a Mexican village during a power struggle between families. The 1964 flick is the first in a trilogy of spaghetti Westerns produced and directed by Italians. Unlike many other Westerns produced in the US, it has no Native Americans in it. That appealed to Wheeler, the director of the Navajo Nation Museum. "Usually in Westerns, there are inaccurate if not offensive depictions of Native people, so this one had no Natives, period," Wheeler said. "That just eliminated that aspect for me."

A premiere for the crew and all-Navajo cast of voice actors is scheduled Nov. 16 at a theater in Window Rock, Arizona. It will be screened for free later this month at other places on or near the Navajo Nation, which extends into Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. At least 20 Indigenous languages are spoken in films that are being showcased by the National Museum of the American Indian in November during Native American Heritage Month. A Fistful of Dollars is just the third major film dubbed in Navajo, an effort financed by the tribe to preserve the language. Finding Nemo was the second. "I can't wait for my uncle to see this, for my dad to see this," Wheeler said. "The other feeling is I wish that those who have gone would be here to see this."

(More Navajo stories.)

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