October 22, 2020
Navajo, a 1952 documentary drama nominated for two Academy Awards, is available on DVD from MVD Entertainment Group and Kit Parker Films.
In the film, a Navajo boy stoically endures hardship, hunger and the death of his family. He is taken away to attend a white man boarding school and escapes but is pursued to ancient Navajo caves. In the title role, a 7-year-old Navajo boy, Francis Kee Teller, received a Golden Globe special award even though he had never seen a movie until viewing his own performance.
Filmed at majestic Canyon de Chelly and nominated for Oscars for Best Documentary and Best Cinematography, the film showcases the talent of cinematographer Virgil Miller, who started out in silent pictures and became known primarily for filming travelogues. He had a reputation for keeping cameras rolling in remote locations under adverse weather conditions. The producers needed a cameraman with those qualities and tracked him down at a camera shop where he repaired photographic equipment. At age 64, Miller took on the challenge of working in freezing cold, with only one camera, a tripod and four reflectors, and came away with an Academy Award nomination.
The working title was The Voice of the Wind, and despite a shoestring $30,000 production budget, a threatened ban by the Indian Service, harsh weather and terrain, infighting between the co-producers, the picture went on to earn critical acclaim.
Bonus features include commentary by Teller; a “Canyon de Chelly” photo-essay by Deborah Lem, Diné; “The Canyon Matters” by Genny Yazzie, Diné; the 1952 national publicity tour with Teller (age 8); and “Our Navajo Neighbors” 1952 documentary.