“May the Force be with you,” though is going to be a trickier translation says Manuelito Wheeler, the director of the Navajo Nation Museum, which is collaborating with Lucasfilm and Deluxe on the project.
There are not direct translations for many words in Star Wars, notes Wheeler. Dine, the Navajo language, often uses a description of what a word does to convey meaning so that several English words are needed to produce a translation.
Wheeler said he hopes to avoid “what people saw in the old Kung fu movies when the lip movements didn’t coincide at all with what was said. I don’t want to disparage the Kung fu movies because I loved watching them, but this can become very distracting and we don’t want to see that happen here.”
This marks the 40th official translation of the film (according to the Star Wars Wookiepedia), but the first major Hollywood film to be translated into a native American language.
“By preserving the Navajo language and encouraging Navajo youth to learn their language, we will also be preserving Navajo culture,” Wheeler said.
He has been working on the project for three years.
“While we have dubbed many films in the past into a variety of languages, this project ranks among the most significant,” said Shana Priesz, senior director of localization at Deluxe.
“Every time we dub a film, we recognize the fact that we are helping to bridge cultural and communications gaps among societies. In this case, however, we have the unique privilege of contributing to the preservation of a storied and noble culture, the Navajo.”
Auditions are being held May 3-4 for key roles such as Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Darth Vader and Han Solo.
The plan is to premiere Navajo Star Wars at a Fourth of July festival. Admission will be free.