Iconic Clint Eastwood Film Gets Navajo Dub

November 24, 2021

For Native American Heritage Month, we have a pretty cool bit of news to share. A couple weeks back, A Fistful of Dollars, starring Clint Eastwood, was dubbed in Navajo. Hearing about this for the first time? Say no more, and we’ll get right into it.

The Why And The How

AP News’ coverage of the news tells us this came about as a request by Navajo elders to the director of the Navajo Nation Museum, Manuelito Wheeler. This request has been out there since “Star Wars IV: A New Hope was translated into Navajo in 2013.” The dub of A Fistful of Dollars was supposed to be released in 2020, but was halted as a result of the advent of COVID-19. The dubbed film premiered on November 16th, 2021 at a movie theater in Winnow Rock, Arizona. 

Why Is This An Important Film & Story?

Aside from the marvel of translating an entire film into another language, there’s a lot more to it than that. As the article also mentions, spaghetti westerns have a habit of having “inaccurate if not offensive depict[ions] of Native people” (AP News, 2021). Luckily, there was nothing of the sort in A Fistful of Dollars, but it is certainly a staple of a lot of these older films. Though the issue wasn’t quite extant in this instance, having it dubbed in Navajo was important, in a way.

In a genre where inaccurate and/or offensive depictions serve to tarnish people’s image of Native peoples, having a film dubbed in a Native American language could be seen in a somewhat cathartic light. Cathartic in that instead of being the subject of a pretty insulting depiction, Native Americans have a chance to make this film their own in a way, and in a way that isn’t offensive to them.  

Dubbing this film in Navajo also provides the opportunity to aid preserving their language, while encouraging others to speak and learn Navajo. As an added bonus, it gives those that speak Navajo already the ability to better enjoy the film. In short, within a genre that, unfortunately, does a disservice to Native people, in this case, it did them a great service, culturally, which is about as satisfying as a story can get.