Navajo Filmmaker to Direct ‘Codetalker’ Film

Destinations.  Perhaps this time of year it is just programmed into us, hardwired into our cultural fabric, to start thinking about where we have been and where we are going.  We look to the past year, its mountains and its valleys, and we try to use it with some degree of wisdom to propel the next year to some better place.  We resolve, yearly, to pursue new destinations.  For me, as a freelance, independent writer exploring my world, this is certainly no less true.  I sit back and I look at the near forty articles that I have written on this online forum since March, and I think of where I have been, the roads that I have traveled, the companions that I have traveled with, and those that I would like to travel with again.

Kody Dayish is certainly on that short list of folks.


One of my first articles in this endeavor of Keeping the Greasy Side Down, was Ashes & Ghosts, where I road to Hopi and Navajo lands to start researching next years book on Native Myth and Legend: Echoes of the Ancients.  On that journey, I first came into contact with Kody, and we have spent a lot of time since talking about each other’s work, upcoming projects, and basically learning from each other.  It has been a solid friendship.


Everything that Kody has worked on over this last nine months, has been leading to his ability to make this announcement.  His next film project will be Unbroken Code, his exploration into the personal, Native experience, at home and abroad for the legendary heroes of World War II.

Kody Dayish Productions is a three sibling company comprised of Kody, Kolette, who will once again be serving as the highly under-rated Production Manager for Unbroken Code, and Kolin, who will be stepping up once again as the Assistant Director on the project.  Be sure to keep up with everything new with Kody Dayish Productions at their newly launched website!  You can also get their official MERCH !


So, back to destinations.  Perhaps it was with the release of my own books, both my first one Grave Whispers eight years ago, and my most recent Spirits of Jerome.  Perhaps it was about constantly reassessing one’s expectations.  If you were to go back and read several of the articles from the last few months, this theme is recurring.  The concerns of the indie artist, their scope, their range, their ability to find success: what success even means.  These thoughts wormed their way through many of the dialogues over the last while, and it is easy to see why.  As people, artists or not, we are constantly pushing forward with eyes on the future; and in many ways, we lose the ability to enjoy the moments that currently surround us.  This concept is what breeds immortal lines like John Lennon’s, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

But you interview these bands, and really ask, would you want it any other way?  The struggle.  The loading equipment into trunks and vans and racing across town on borrowed fumes to play a gig to an almost empty club… but HUNGERING, wanting it more and more, and feeling the ecstasy of a full room thumping to your vibe because the magic is still not an expectation.  Would these times be more valuable with cash and fame?  Will the stories we tell, years from now, center around the glory of stardom or will they be the soul stories of the bars and the shoestring-budget adventures of the local scene?  Think about it.  Most of us are writing the peaks of our life-novels right now, while we are planning on the ultimate best part.  It is all about perspective.


Ghost Writer:  So, looking back on your year, I see quite a list of accomplishments and creations.  When I first met you, you were completing The Red Hogaan, and starting work on the Our Last Chants video: Goodbye.  You moved from there to doing Spared, a film in three parts, Silent Medicine, and most recently The Boy Who Cried Wolf, which incidentally, was completely in spoken Navajo.  Somewhere in there we met on a film set for a documentary about Indigenous Agriculture you were working on and we were about to participate in a traditional Meeting of the Tribes {one of the highlights of my life by the way – read about it HERE. }  That is a busy year, and as a fellow artist I have a tendency to look at what I see others doing from a business sense: and what I am seeing is the building of a portfolio.  Would that be a correct assessment?


Kody Dayish[with his charismatic and ever-present laugh and joviality] Yeah man, you could totally say that.  Everything, literally everything, we have done this year has been trying to pave the way for our ability to do this Code Talker film.


Ghost Writer:  That’s what I am getting at.  It seems to me that we have this tendency to look at people, famous people, creative people, and we simply see their arrival at fame, like it is this amazing cloud you get invited to live on.  We don’t, at least as a general audience, see this person’s accomplishments as a process.  For instance, in my world, the writing world, if I were trying to get published, I would use my creative material to try to create a writer’s resume, a portfolio of my work, and use those credentials to try to move up the ladder of bigger and better writing gigs.  Watching you work this past year, you are not dissimilar: it is just that your submission process is not to publications but to festivals for reviews and awards.


Kody:  Exactly.  Our work is continually being submitted to film festivals, screenings, both local and all over the country.  That is the road to acknowledgement in this field at this level.  And with each victory and accomplishment, new opportunities are laid at our doorstep for the next project.  There was no way that I could jump right into this huge and passionate undertaking of doing a Code Talker film, not with the respect I have for the Elders and for my People’s history, without first taking the time to learn and grow as a film maker.



Ghost Writer:  Reputation matters.  Speaking of reputation, one of the young actors that you have worked with in multiple films, in fact, a young man that you can legitimately claim that you discovered as an actor has some big news I hear?


Kody:  Yeah, Xavier Horsechief, he starred in both Spared and The Boy Who Cried Wolf most recently has been cast as Adam Beach’s son, Wes Studi’s grandson, in the upcoming film Hostiles with Christian Bale.

Ghost Writer:  That is pretty awesome!  ( Read the Navajo Daily Times Article on Kody and Xavier HERE ! } You yourself recently worked with Adam Beach in the upcoming film, Desert, this last Fall.  To say nothing of showing off your classic fist pump in the latest and final season of Longmire!


Kody:  {again, laughing} Yeah man, I get around.

Ghost Writer:  So, one hard question about the upcoming Unbroken Code:  in the official casting announcement, you call for all Navajo actors, many who can speak Navajo.  This is not surprising as your goal throughout your productions is to showcase the authenticity and artistry of the Dine’ People.  With cultural appropriation being such a huge topic into today’s creative world: Johnny Depp being cast as Tonto or the general cultural misappropriation or white washing in Hollywood for example, it resounds with perfect clarity to try to maintain cultural correctness.  However, further in the casting call, you announce parts for several Japanese characters, but you specifically state that these roles will be filled by “Japanese looking” Navajo people as well.  This seems to be counter to the point of cultural correctness.


Kody:  We have actually been very surprised by the amount of commentary that announcement has caused.  People need to remember, we have lots of pre-production meetings and discussions about these concerns.  We are a small company trying to make headway as Independent Navajo filmmakers.  We do not have huge budgets or millions of investors.  We are a Navajo Nation {reservation} based outfit.  The number of Japanese people we would even have the ability to cast would be severely limited, so in the end, it was more important to us to stay true to our original mission which was to offer as close to 100% Dine’ Produced art of quality as possible.


Ghost Writer:  Which, in terms of the cultural appropriation and correctness issue, is still an incredibly noble pursuit.  Constraints of reality ought always be considered when pushing the constraints of ideals.

Kody:  Exactly.  That was the decision we came to as a production crew as well.

Ghost Writer:  I’m a fan, and as a final question, I know lots of readers would also love to see your films and experience your vision.  Outside of going to your film festivals that happen periodically in Shiprock, New Mexico… how do we see you work?


Kody:  At this point, you don’t.  Unfortunately.  As Independent Artists constantly submitting these films to festivals across the United States, they cannot be distributed publicly.  They are not on Youtube.  They are the sole property of the creators, and only made view-able to the various decision making panels of the festivals to which they are submitted.  We do however have a new website for folks to see what we are all about, what we are working on, and of course to get their hands on our Merch!  Check it out !


Ghost Writer:  To that point, I am very interested in pursuing a Ghost Writer Presents: an Evening with Navajo Film Maker Kody Dayish at Film Bar, here in Phoenix.  If that is something that I can gain traction on, would you be interested in screening a couple of your films and doing a meet and greet?

Kody:  Yes, yes, yes, absolutely yes.  We would definitely be interested in that type of an opportunity.



Destinations.  Expectations.  Setting realistic goals for the future, while allowing one’s self to completely immerse in and appreciate the building moments, the progress along the way.  I am starting to see, that this is how we Keep the Greasy Side Down.  This is how we slog through the oil and the grime and the sludge…. to see the beauty.  This is the Quest of Vision.  But it is not about arrivals.  It is not about tee times.  It is about ….. the Process.



Keep the Greasy Side Down My Friends.


Ghost Writer

Arizona Enthusiast. Writer. Rider. Dreamer.

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