Star Wars in Navajo

by @edent | # | Read ~144 times.

There's something poetic about watching a film you know intimately being performed in another language.

A long time ago - Navajo

Like many children of my generation, I don't remember a time before Star Wars. My birthday cakes were sloppy green Jabba The Hutts, my brother always got the "baddie" toys and I got the "goodies", every cardboard tube became a deadly lightsabre in my hands.

The force run strong in my family. I have it. My wife has it.

I've collected every variant of the Star Wars movies there is. The remakes, the fan edits, the parodies. Each one adds something new to the legend, each one takes me back to being 7 years old.

I want to impress on you that Star Wars takes up an unhealthy part of my life.

Navajo

Star Wars Navajo Crawl

Like many Europeans, my knowledge of the Navajo people and culture is limited to a few stereotypes from movies and obscure trivia about Code Talkers in the second world war.

Back in 2012, Star Wars became the first major motion picture to be translated into Navajo. It was originally screened at the Navajo Nation Fair with no plans to release it commercially. Lucasfilm have since relented and it's now available to buy on DVD from the Navajo Museum gift shop and online from Walmart. It's not available in Europe, so I'm indebted to my mate Kevin for shipping me a copy.

It's wonderful. Just like the fanedits of Phantom Menage which remove Jar-Jar - this takes Star Wars in an entirely new direction. Luke isn't quite so whiney - he sounds like a confident young man. C-3PO is female, which gives her a lovely resonance with Maria from Metropolis. Obi-Wan sounds a lot older and - way to reveal my prejudices - takes on a more mystic quality.

The alien languages have not been translated - although there are Navajo subtitles for them.

Star Wars Navajo Subtitles

Minor Disappointments

The only real downside is that the (standard definition) video is drawn from the crappy 1997 "Special Editions". That means you get the joy of late '90s CGI, overly saturated colours, and Han shooting.... oh god... it hurts to say it! Han shoots second!

You do get Biggs and Boba Fett though. Almost makes up for it!

The disc contains English subtitles, but they are straight copies of the English language version. I was hoping that they would be a transliteration from the Navajo. I'd love to understand exactly how it was translated

These are, to be fair, minor blemishes on an otherwise flawless presentation.

Disc

This is an American release, so the resolution is only 720*480 anamorphic. Audio is DD 5.1 (no DTS) the Navajo audio mix is seemingly identical to the other two on the disc - English and Spanish. The voices are loud and clear within the background music, 3PO has a pleasingly metalic quality, and Vader is deep and booming.

No special features on there - it would have been nice to have a "making of" or "behind the scenes" - there are chapter selections options and interactive menus to select your language preferences.

The printing on the disc is somewhat barren.

Verdict

I can't comment on the quality of the translation - although it has been very well received. As with any translated movie, it's always fun to see which words have been loaned to the new language. While I wasn't expecting "Artoo Deetoo" to get a new name, I must admit to be surprised that there are apparently no Navajo words for "Princess", "Empire", "Rebel", or "Your Highness".

If you're a Star Wars completist, I think this disc is a worthwhile addition to your collection. It gives you a chance to experience an innovative translation and, hopefully, if enough people buy it then more films will be translated into Navajo.

There's a beautiful article by Chris Taylor where he writes about the first screening of the Navajo version.

"Ats’ahoniyee’ nil holoo doo."

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