"Star Wars" has been translated into 34 languages, including Chinese, Greek, Turkish and even Croatian. And on July 3, it'll add another language to that list: Navajo. It also marks the very first major motion picture to be translated into a Native American language.
Manuelito Wheeler, the director of the Navajo Nation Museum, decided he wanted to make the film's translation a reality. He started by contacting Navajo Nation and Lucasfilm for permission. After Wheeler got the green light from both, he settled down with a group of translators (his wife, Jennifer, included) to translate the iconic space epic into a film that native Navajo could watch and enjoy.
"This was an idea that I felt was a way to promote our culture, promote our language, a way to save our language," Wheeler said. "There are definitely Star Wars nerds out there who can repeat that movie verbatim, and they speak no Navajo. And so when they're watching this and it's in Navajo, it's them learning Navajo."
Auditions were held for all the major speaking roles, and Navajo-speaking members of the tribe were chosen as the voice actors.
One of the greatest challenges, of course, was matching the new words to the actors' mouth movements. Also, words like "droid" and "Darth Vader" don't exactly exist in Navajo. So what did they do to substitute?
"R2-D2 would be the short metal thing that's alive," Jennifer Wheeler said, telling NPR that the actual translation would be revealed at the premiere.
The fully translated film will be shown on July 3 in Window Rock, Arizona, as part of the Navajo Nation Fair. And yes: this is the movie you're looking for.