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Hillerman mystery thriller to film on Navajo


Last week, the New Mexico Film Office announced that a new television show, “Dark Winds,” produced by AMC Networks and Dark Winds Productions LLC, has begun production in Santa Fe.

“Dark Winds” is a psychological thriller based on the iconic Tony Hillerman mystery novels that feature the popular characters Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police.

According to the film office, the television series follows officers Leaphorn and Chee as their search for clues to solve a double murder case leads them “deeper into the mysticism of Navajo spirituality and closer to the sins of their past.”

Amber Dodson, director of the film office, said, “We are ecstatic that AMC is being so intentional about telling this story in an authentic way by creative talent whose work speaks for itself, with a Native American director from New Mexico, as well as Native American writers, actors, and locations.”

The six-episode series will be directed by Chris Eyre (“Smoke Signals,” “Skins,” “Skinwalkers,” “Edge of America,” “Hide Away”), who also serves as an executive producer.

Filming will take place in Santa Fe, Española, Pueblo of Cochiti, Pueblo of Tesuque, and the Navajo Nation from late August through November 2021.

Raquel Bahe, film liaison with the Navajo Nation Film Office, said on Tuesday that it’s likely that the production’s primary film location on Navajo will be Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, pending permit approvals.

“We thank New Mexico and the Navajo Nation for welcoming us so graciously,” said Eyre. “There is no better community or location that could properly serve the authentic storytelling, look, and feel necessary for ‘Dark Winds.’

“This was our first and only choice,” he said, “and we’re overwhelmed with the abundance of phenomenal talent and crew we are able to work alongside here.”

The series stars actors Zahn McClarnon (“The Son,” “Westworld,” “Longmire,” “Fargo”), also an executive producer, Noah Emmerich (“The Americans,” “The Spy”), Kiowa Gordon (“The Red Road,” “Roswell, New Mexico”), Jessica Matten, (“Frontier,” “Blackstone,” and “Mohawk Girls”) and Jeremiah Bitsui (“Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul,” “Yellowstone”).

Richard Shotwell/AP
Zahn McClarnon will portray Joe Leaphorn in the upcoming series, “Dark Winds.”

Additional executive producers include Robert Redford, George R.R. Martin (“Game of Thrones”), Tina Elmo (“Mustang”), and Vince Gerardis (“Game of Thrones”), and “Dark Winds” showrunner Vince Calandra (“Castle Rock,” “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” “Sharp Objects”).

“Tony Hillerman was one of the greats, as every mystery reader knows,” Martin stated in a July 9 “AMC Talk” press announcement.

“Down here in the Southwest,” he said, “Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee are as iconic as Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Philip Marlowe, and Travis McGee.”

Eyre previously directed two episodes of the PBS series “Mystery!” – “A Thief of Time” (2003) and “Skinwalkers” (2002) – also based on Tony Hillerman novels.

Both were executive produced by Redford and starred Adam Beach as Jim Chee and Wes Studi as Joe Leaphorn.

“I read my first Tony Hillerman novel in 1986 while filming in New Mexico and was immediately hooked,” Redford told AMC. “Hillerman is a master storyteller, his writing is full of mystery and suspense, set amidst a background that blends traditional oral stories of Native American culture and landscape.”

“Dark Winds” will employ approximately 200 New Mexico crew members and over 275 New Mexico background and extras and is expected to premiere on AMC+ and AMC in 2022.

President Jonathan Nez said he looks forward to welcoming AMC Studios and “Dark Winds” producers, cast and crew to the Navajo Nation.


About The Author

Rima Krisst

Reporter and photojournalist Rima Krisst reported for the Navajo Times from July 2018 to October 2022. She covered Arts and Culture and Government Affairs beats.Before joining the editorial team at the Times, Krisst worked in various capacities in the areas of communications, public relations, marketing and Indian Affairs policy on behalf of the Tribes, Nations and Pueblos of New Mexico. Among her posts, she served as Director of PR and Communications for the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department under Governor Bill Richardson, Healthcare Outreach and Education Manager for the Eight Northern Pueblos, Tribal Tourism Liaison for the City of Santa Fe, and Marketing Projects Coordinator for Santa Fe Indian Market. As a writer and photographer, she has also worked independently as a contractor on many special projects, and her work has been published in magazines. Krisst earned her B.S. in Business Administration/Finance from the University of Connecticut.


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