Bennie Klain (2007)

Listen

Bennie Klain (2007)

Bennie Klain is excited.

This is evident in the first words that pour out of his mouth when asked about his latest film, Weaving Worlds, being accepted to the upcoming South by Southwest Film Festival. Adding to the excitement is the fact that the festival will be held in Austin, Texas, Bennie’s hometown.

“It holds a good place in my heart…I am really excited about the premier, not just because I will get to show my work, but because I will get to show my work to other film-makers that I consider peers here in Austin” says Bennie.

The film festival, now in its 14th year, will be held from March 9th through the 17th.  It has grown considerably in stature in recent years and it is considered a privilege for a film to be a part of it.  Bennie’s invite is a result of years of hard work.

Bennie got his start in the communications field at the radio station KGHR in his then hometown of Tuba City, Arizona.  It was an internship that was originally accepted as a summer job during his first year of college. 

“I’m not very good at math and I’m not very good at science,” Bennie states modestly, on his choice to begin work in the communications field.

However, the internship sparked Bennie’s interest and he decided radio was something he wanted to pursue.  Later that summer the position of program director at the station became available.  Bennie applied, not expecting to hear back.  However, he received the position and decided to take it, holding off on school for a couple of years. After a few years at KGHR Bennie was offered a position at KTNN, the largest Navajo radio station in Arizona.  Bennie was to become a bilingual broadcast journalist.  He would be doing three newscasts a day, in Navajo, for the next three years. It was through this position that Bennie got his foot in the door of the film industry.

Bennie was assigned to cover a film entitled Return of Navajo Boy.  The story of a Navajo family who finds an old film that ties them to their past.  While attending a screening of the film he recorded an interview with the film’s Director Jeff Spitz.  Spitz, who noticed Bennie was fluent in Navajo, thought the young man would be able to help out with his film.

In the following months Jeff contacted Bennie a number of times, asking for his assistance.  As time passed Spitz began to approach Bennie for his insight more and more.  Eventually he asked Bennie to co-produce the film.

“The transition was very fluent for me,” says Bennie, on the switch from radio to film. “Doing stories with just audio really taught me a lot about story structure, so it just felt natural when the visual thing came into it”

Once in the film industry Bennie found his true calling.  He enrolled full time in the film school at the University of Texas-Austin, and began his career in film.  He has since recorded several short, dramatic films.

Now an established filmmaker, Bennie can’t wait to show off his newest work. The use of native language is one of the ways Bennie plans to grab attention at the festival.  He hopes it will provide an intimate point of view of the Navajo Nation.

“The film is about 80% Navajo…this has really helped make the film unique.” says Bennie. “This brings an intimacy that wouldn’t be there if they were speaking English.”

Weaving Worlds will screen in the Lone Star States program of South by Southwest Film Festival.  Check www.sxsw.com for showtimes.  The film festival is an enormous opportunity, and Bennie has all the reason in world for his excitement.

Written by Zach Oliva.

Interviews conducted and edited by Zach Oliva.