MVSKOKE RESERVATION – A feature length movie based upon the life of Jesus Christ will be getting a Mvskoke cultural connection. Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen Jennifer Barnett and Oklahoma City-based director Aaron Hanzel (Choctaw/Chickasaw) have been collaborating to dub the movie “The Savior” into the Mvskoke language. When complete, it will not only be the first film to be entirely dubbed in the Mvskoke language, it will also be the first Native North American language used for the film as well.
Premiering in 2014, the movie retells the story of Jesus Christ, from his birth to his death and resurrection. Originally filmed in Arabic, the Bulgarian-Jordanian production has already been dubbed in over 40 languages.
The Mvskoke language project began when Barnett’s father, the late Rev. Bill Barnett, was told about the film in 2017. Barnett explained to Mvskoke Media’s LiveWire, “He’d always wanted to have a film like that in our Muscogee language. And so from there he gathered my uncle Jackson Barnett and several other elders. And when they received the script, they began to translate it. And so Muscogee is the first North American language that will be used for this film. We’re really excited about it.”
Barnett and Hanzel have completed two proof-of-concept videos so far, the Nativity Story and the Easter Story. These smaller-scale, preliminary dubs of sections from the film helped secure funding for voice-over work for the full film.
Both can be found on their website, THE SAVIOR in Mvskoke, along with resource materials to support Mvskoke language learning. The resource materials include Christmas and Easter plays in Mvskoke and English, language pronunciation guides, and Mvskoke hymns.
Barnett wants to encourage people to use the proof-of-concept videos, which also include subtitles in English and Mvskoke. Barnett said, “We do offer them with the Muskogee, with the subtitles in Muskogee or even subtitles in English as well. And so we want people, we want churches to use that. And at the same time, we want it to be a tool to help preserve our language and encourage the learning of it.”
Currently, the project is casting for 80 different speaking roles. They are looking for speakers who are proficient to fluent in the Mvskoke language. Barnett explained, “The biggest hurdle right now is casting, we’re trying to get as many people involved with the project as possible. The funding is there…for right now we just need folks to reach out and get involved.”
Additional scenes shot will give an even deeper Mvskoke context to the film. In addition to the voice-over work for the film, Barnett and Hanzel have also added to the original production by recently shooting a few scenes of their own. Filmed at Camp Sooner, the scenes capture a storytelling night around a campfire telling the story in Mvskoke. As was important for Barnett and Hanzel, the additional scenes use Mvskoke people and Mvskoke actors.
Barnett explained, “And we had the idea of like, what if we wrote new scenes? Like what if we added someone telling the story in Mvskoke? And even if it’s as simple as a storytelling night. So we put together a short script and sent it to all the folks that had funded everything so far and they were like, ‘We love it.’”
For information on voice-over work or for those interested in reaching out to Barnett and Hanzel, go to their website THE SAVIOR in Mvskoke, or call 405-595-0053.
To view “The Savior- a Mvskoke Nativity” visit the Christmas story.