Tale of Navajo codemakers optioned by Pacific Western

Producer Gale Anne Hurd hopes to break the code of silence surrounding a group of Navajo Indians and their contribution to the U.S. military during World War II.

Her Pacific Western Prods. has optioned rights to Glen Craney’s Nicholl Fellowship-winning screenplay “Whisper the Wind,” which chronicles the story of a group of young Navajos who developed a code used by the Marines in the Pacific Theater. The code was never broken by the Japanese armed forces.

Pacific Western is developing “Wind” as a feature film in association with Los Angeles-based Red Horse Native Prods.

While Hurd is best known for big-ticket sci-fi action blockbusters such as “Armageddon,” “Aliens” and “Terminator 2,” “Wind” likely will be closer in spirit to “The Waterdance,” a critically acclaimed 1992 niche pic she produced.

Codetalkers to help

The filmmakers will get help from the Navajo Codetalkers Assn., a nonprofit group of veterans involved in developing and implementing the code.

“We’re very happy that our story is finally being told,” said Sam Billison, president of the association. “Until 1968, the military had kept our existence classified. The movie will hopefully preserve the memory of our accomplishments, and serve to educate our people about our pride and part in helping to win the war.”

The film will be shot partly on location on the 17-million-acre Navajo reservation, which has a population of 200,000 and spreads across Arizona, western New Mexico and Utah.

Lived on reservation

First-time screenwriter Craney spent six months living on the reservation researching the story.

” ‘Whisper the Wind’ is a fascinating story about the sacrifice and heroism which balances action with compelling characters,” said Hurd, who is developing the project along with Native American filmmakers Valerie Red-Horse, Yvonne Russo and Dawn Jackson.

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