June 26, 2008

Return of Return of Navajo Boy

'Navajo Boy' returns

Uranium undercurrent surfaces in ‘The Return of Navajo Boy’ epilogueIn 1997 a white man identifying himself as Bill Kennedy from Chicago showed up in Monument Valley with a silent film called “Navajo Boy,” which his late father produced in the 1950s. Seeking to understand his father’s work on the Navajo Reservation, Kennedy returned the film to the people in it.

When Cly family matriarch, Elsie Mae Cly Begay, watched the film, she was amused to see herself as a young girl and delighted in identifying other family members: her late mother Happy Cly and infant brother, John Wayne Cly, who was adopted by white missionaries in the 1950s and never heard from again.

With the return of “Navajo Boy,” Elsie seized the opportunity to tell her family’s story. Amid a variety of still photos and moving images from the ’40s and ’50s, the film’s producers allow the family to tell their story in their own voices, shedding light on the Native side of picture making and uranium mining in Monument Valley.

When John Wayne Cly, who was married and living in Zuni, learned about “The Return of Navajo Boy” from a story in the Gallup Independent, he contacted the Clys in hopes that they were his family. “The Return of Navajo Boy” documents John Wayne Cly’s unforgettable return to his blood brothers and sisters in an emotional reunion in Monument Valley.

Narrated by Elsie’s son Lorenzo Begay, “The Return of Navajo Boy” was the official Sundance Film Festival 2000 selection.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Documentaries and News.

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