“Return of the Navajo Boy”, Saturday

By on Wed, August 26, 2009

On Saturday August 29th, The Visionary Edge will screen Return of Navajo Boy. The event will be co-hosted by and presented at the Community United Methodist Church in Half Moon Bay.

An official Sundance Film Festival selection, The Return of Navajo Boy, chronicles an extraordinary chain of events, beginning with the appearance of a 1950s film reel, which lead to the return of a long lost brother to his Navajo family.

Living for more than six decades in Monument Valley, Utah, the Cly family has an extraordinary history in pictures. Since the1930’s, family members have appeared as unidentified subjects in countless photographs and films shot in Monument Valley including various postcards, Hollywood Westerns and a rare home-movie by legendary director John Ford. But it is the sudden appearance of a rarely seen vintage film that affects their lives the most.

In 1997 a white man identifying himself as Bill Kennedy from Chicago showed up in Monument Valley with a silent film called Navajo Boy which he says his late father produced in the 1950s. Seeking to understand his father’s work on the Navajo Reservation, Kennedy returns the film to the people in it. When Cly family matriarch, Elsie Mae Cly Begay, watches the film she is amused to see herself as a young girl and delights in identifying other members of her family. Elsie recognizes her late mother in the old film as well as her 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 seizes the opportunity to tell her family’s story for the first time, offering a unique perspective to the history of the American west. Using a variety of still photos and moving images from the 40s and 50s and telling their family story in their own voices, the Clys shed light on the Native side of picture making and uranium mining in Monument Valley.

When the long lost brother, John Wayne Cly, learns about the return of "Navajo Boy" in a New Mexico newspaper, he contacts the Clys in hopes that they are his family. As he tells his side of the story. The Return of Navajo Boy takes on a literal tone, setting in motion John Wayne’s unforgettable return to his blood brothers and sisters in an emotional reunion in Monument Valley.

John Wayne Cly grew up in New Mexico with other Indian foster brothers and sisters. In the movie, he tells of watching cars on the highway and dreaming that his Navajo family would pull up and take him away. Or John Wayne himself would show up and take him to the relatives he pined for.  "All my life I felt I never fit in with anyone,’’ he said.

This unique Sundance Film Festival selection weaves together all the different threads of the Cly family story, narrated by Elsie’s son Lorenzo Begay. Through this inside narrative of the Cly’s inspirational saga, The Return of Navajo Boy gives new meaning to old pictures and performs a healing miracle of its own.

Saturday, August 29th. Doors will open at 7:00pm, event begins at 7:30 at the Community United Methodist Church, 777 Miramontes Street (at Johnston), HMB. The event is free; donations will be   accepted to cover the costs of screening. Call 650-560-0200 for information and reservations.

Located in Half Moon Bay, The Visionary Edge produces events to inform, inspire, and empower us all to create a wiser, sustainable and more compassionate world.

Running Time:  57 minutes + 20 minute epilogue
Website:  www.navajoboy.com