First Navajo Language Puppet TV Pilot Kicks Off Fundraising Campaign
ALBUQUERQUE, NM—“Diné Bí Ná’álkid Time!” or The Navajo Movie Time is the first educational Navajo and English puppet show under development to teach and preserve the Navajo language and culture through digital media. Producers Dr. Shawna L. Begay and Charmaine Jackson have teamed up to create a short TV pilot for an all-ages audience to kick off their fundraising campaign.
After several years of extensive research on the Navajo Nation, Dr. Begay (Diné) who recently completed her PhD from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas with her doctorate thesis, ‘Developing A Navajo Media Guide: A Community Perspective. As the project director, she quickly realized she was a pioneer on the topic.
“When I decided what topic to study I realized there existed very little research in Indigenous Educational Media, especially with our Navajo people,” stated Dr. Begay. “As Navajo people, we have our own learning objectives and Navajo way of knowing is completely different for Euro-Western schooling. I decided that I had to research and develop our own curriculum guide that is meant to teach Navajo through media.”
Dr. Begay and Jackson, co-writers of the show, developed the first 3-puppet characters and plan for many more. The pilot features Nanabah-a young girl, Gáh (Rabbit) and Dlǫ̀ǫ̀ (Prairie Dog) who go on endless adventures learning about language, culture and the importance of family values.
Nanabah is fluent in Navajo and likes to teach children about life on the reservation with her animal friends and special guests. She enjoys gardening, weaving, helping her family and protecting the environment. Children who what to learn Navajo will also be an important part of the show and will interact with Nanabah’s friends and storyline. The pilot features first-time Navajo actors Tehya Begay, 8; Gavin Wright, 7; and his older brother Damek Wright, 11.
Dr. Begay’s research concluded there exists very little research in the area of indigenous educational media. Currently, media is a very powerful tool that can be used to teach. She is cognizant of the digital age we live in and the opportunities to utilize media to revitalize the Navajo language.
“Star Wars and Finding Nemo dubbed in Navajo was a great place to start and it has garnered national exposure of our language. However, we also need a show based on our own Navajo learning principals our ancestors set out for us to learn and live by. I don’t think a non-Navajo, non-native or non-indigenous person can do that for us, nor should they. We, as Navajo people need to produce this show ourselves if we are to be truly sovereign,” added Dr. Begay.
Both educators, Dr. Begay and Jackson, of Naalkid Productions have been talking about this educational language project for about the past four years and still have a long way to go with funding the project.
“With the support of Navajo KOB 4 News Anchor Colton Shone, our team of Navajo artists, filmmakers, family and friends this video pilot is a huge first step,” said Jackson. “Our journey has just begun and the next big step is to find financial support support to create a whole new puppet series.”
Jackson (Diné), executive producer of Diné Bí Ná’álkid Time, graduated from the University of New Mexico with a BA in Broadcast Journalism and has worked in public relations and the film and television industry for the past 15 years. She’s an award-winning broadcast TV/radio journalist and actress.
Naalkid Productions estimates each show will cost about $20,000 to $30,000 to produce, develop more puppet characters, market for television, hire voice/talent, film crew, rent camera equipment, and pay for many other production costs.
Team member and puppet creator Jason Barnes, (Diné/Pacific Islander) added that the scope of the project was very narrow and specific so the puppet design was fairly easy.
“I first started with concept drawings of the characters based on the script or outline and once the final concepts were completed, I moved on to the fabrication of the puppets. For the fabrication process, I relied heavily on my mother, Virginia Barnes, to help with the sewing since she is an expert seamstress,” said Barnes.
Other production crew were cinematographer Shaandiin Tome (Diné) of Mud Films LLC and puppeteers included notable film actor Adam Chess (La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians/Pawnee) and Ronalda Warito (Diné) and B-camera operator Dale Waseta (Laguna).
Help save our Navajo language at: https://www.gofundme.com/dine-bi-naalkid-time