Acclaimed Navajo Filmmaker Bennie Klain Dies At 49

Sep 23, 2021

Influential Navajo filmmaker Bennie Klain has died. He was a documentarian whose numerous films focused on the intersection of modern and traditional Indigenous culture. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius has this remembrance.


Klain was a founder of the Austin-based production company Trickster Films. It released the award-winning “Weaving Worlds,” which examined the contemporary pressures faced by traditional Navajo weavers and premiered at the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival. Klain’s 2011 film short, “Columbus Day Legacy,” also won numerous awards and chronicled the tense clashes over Denver, Colorado’s Columbus Day parade.

Klain died earlier this month at his home in Tonalea on the Navajo Nation where he had recently returned following the death of his mother.

During his career Klain premiered two films at the Sundance Film Festival and was a Sundance Institute Fellow for multiple years. He also broadcast Navajo-language newscasts on KTNN Radio from Window Rock and was a mentor to other Navajo filmmakers.

A memorial service was held for Klain last week and a cause of death hasn’t been disclosed. He was 49.