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INDIGENOUS ART: Screenwriter, director tells Native stories with Native actors

Kody Dayish with his award for best emerging director at the Red Nation Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Kody Dayish with his award for best emerging director at the Red Nation Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Kody Dayish is a storyteller.

gomez_adrian_sigAnd he’s beginning to get some national attention for his work in film.

In fact, at the Red Nation Film Festival in November in Los Angeles, Dayish picked up an award for best emerging director for his short film “The Beginning” and the trailer for “The Red Hogan.”

“I wasn’t expecting that,” he says. “It was only our fourth film festival. Just to be selected, I was already excited. The best part of it all, there was Leonardo DiCaprio in the audience. It was special.”

Dayish is based in Farmington, and when working on projects, he makes an effort to tell Native American stories and use Native American actors.

“We were pretty strict on who we hired and cast,” he says of “The Beginning.” “I was motivated to make an official, all-Navajo production.”

Dayish has had his share of being in front of the camera.

But it wasn’t until he was in an accident a year ago that his calling as a screenwriter emerged.

He had a broken neck, and the accident left him in a halo vest for six months.

“After the accident, I was also stuck in a wheelchair,” he says. “That’s the time I took the scripts and wrote them. That’s what motivated me. I wanted to make a difference with the films I make. It takes a lot of work.”

Dayish works with his siblings Kolette and Kolin.

The trio started working together in 2010.

Dayish is now working on the feature film “The Red Hogan” and says it’s based on Navajo stories.

“We’re aiming for Sundance with this film,” he says. “We’ve worked so hard on the film, and I think we have a chance to get it somewhere.”

Production has taken place on the Navajo Nation, including Shiprock.

Dayish and his siblings worked together on this film.

“We built our equipment from scratch,” he says. “My sister built everything, because she’s a welder. That’s the cool thing about our production.”

Making the transition from actor to director has been quite a learning experience for Dayish.

“It’s a big transition,” he says. “I feel like I don’t deserve this spot because I haven’t been working at it that long. But I think with our films, we’re going to change people’s perspectives.”

SEND ME YOUR TIPS: If you know of a movie filming in the state, or are curious about one, email Follow me on Twitter @agomezART.