FLAGSTAFF - In the new translation of "Star Wars," Darth Vader is Luke's bizhe'e.
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, the director of the Navajo Nation Museum who reached out to Lucasfilm Ltd. with the idea, has a very good feeling about this. He sees it as entertaining, educational and a way to preserve the Navajo language at a time when fewer tribal members are speaking it.
"I find that very rewarding and somewhat ironic," Wheeler said. "We went from a country that wanted to limit our language, to the Navajo language saving our country through Code Talkers, to our language being part of a major motion picture."
Native languages on the big screen are a rarity. Independent offerings at film festivals have been in the tongue of American Indian tribes. Yet it's far less common in mainstream movies.
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. Casting calls are scheduled for Monday in Burbank, Calif., and May 3 and 4 - the unofficial "Star Wars" holiday - at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock.