The Return of Navajo Boy

Director: Jeff Spitz

Institute History

  • 2000 Sundance Film Festival


The Return of Navajo Boy is several films in one, realized by veteran documentary filmmaker Jeff Spitz and Dineh radio journalist Bennie Klain. An old film reel, shot in Monument Valley in the 1950s, is found in the attic of Robert Kennedy, the late filmmaker, whose son is determined to discover where and why the film was made. Kennedy’s son contacts Spitz, and together they begin a journey to the land and time in which these images originated. The footage is identified through the Cly family, who are documented in the film.

Meanwhile, John Wayne Cly, who was taken by white missionaries during the 1950s and who appeared in the film shot by Kennedy, learns of the film and contacts his family. Spitz and John Wayne Cly return to Monument Valley where Cly is reunited with his blood family for the first time since his adoption. The film journey continues and shows the viewer how the landscape and the Navajo people themselves are threatened by industry and the illusion of progress. Entre Suenos is a dreamlike narrative that explores the contrast between the waking state and the dreamworld of a young indigenous woman. Through dialogue with ancestors, memories of her past, and regard for the future, she finds a moment of peace and a place within her native identity where all things come together. In a sincere and searching manner, filmmaker Yolanda Cruz finds a visual and narrative style that marks a true storyteller.

— Heather Rae

Screening Details


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