Guest blog: It's hoped that this project will intrigue the younger generation into learning more about their language — and keep the language alive
Earlier this month, I noted that there was a cooperative project between Lucasfilm and the Navajo people in Arizona to dub "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" into the Navajo language, Diné.
Now there's more I can tell you about it.
Manny Wheeler, director of the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Ariz., who has been steering the project, told me the dubbed version is expected to screen on July 4 in Window Rock.
And in an email, Richard Epcar, a well-known voice director in Hollywood, gave me a few more details of the project.
A cast of 20 Navajo voice actors and actresses working with the museum will be doing the dubbing. "The actual recording of the Diné dub of 'Star Wars' is taking place in New Mexico — right in the heart of the largest population of Navajo speakers," Epcar told me, explaining how the studio work came his way.
''Manny approached Deluxe [studio] here in Los Angeles," Epcar said. "They then approached our company, Epcar Entertainment, to do the actual dub. I have worked with them for years on various projects. I am a voice actor/director, I was an international dubbing supervisor for DreamWorks and Universal Pictures and have been doing this type of work for 30 years. Our company has worked on many films, television shows, animated films and series and many Academy Award winning films."
For the “Star Wars” project, Epcar said that while he supervised the adaptation of the script into Diné, he wasn't able to direct this project himself because he was in the middle of directing a Batman videogame, he wasn't able to direct this project himself.
Instead, his wife. Ellyn Stern, is directing.
"She is a talented actress/director, and we've worked together on these kinds of projects since the start," Epcar said. "Ellyn is actually fascinated with Native Americans and their culture, so she was very excited to work on this project. They are in the [middle and final] stages right now — and things are going well.''
When asked what the dubbing project hoped to accomplish, Epcar said: "Basically, Manny was trying to find a way to get the younger generation interested in keeping their language alive. The elders speak Diné, and the younger ones speak English. They are hoping this will intrigue them into learning more about their language and bridge the gap, as well as keep their language alive. Ellyn and I are thrilled to be part of this effort."
As we reported in early May, Lucasfilm is solidly behind the project. In a press release, the studio said that while the “Star Wars” films have been translated and dubbed in a variety of languages, [we] are now proud to have [a Diné-dubbed version] as its most recent addition.”