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Farmington resident still hopes to make film about code talkers

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FARMINGTON — Farmington resident Kody Dayish and his siblings have been making small-budget, independent films for the past several years. Their work hasn't gone unnoticed, as their projects have been accepted into larger and larger film festivals. Dayish even nabbed a directorial award at the 2016 Red Nation Film Festival in Los Angeles.

But Dayish's career got a substantial boost last weekend during the 20th annual Santa Fe Film Festival. The latest film from Kody Dayish Productions, the 2019 psychological thriller "Parole," was screened at the festival in the featured films category. The company's movies had been shown at the high-profile festival previously, but they were always relegated to the Native American category, a smaller genre that typically doesn't attract as much attention.

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The 2006 Shiprock High School graduate believes having "Parole" shown alongside the films of established, well-respected indie filmmakers at the festival is a sign that his work is being taken more seriously and that he may be approaching the point where he can take his projects to another level.

"To me, it was just a huge step," Dayish said, explaining that he has volunteered at the festival in the past to get a better idea of how it operates.

He said he had been honored to have his past work accepted in the Native American category at the festival, but he always believed he and his siblings Kolette and Kolin could make a film that was worthy of more attention. With "Parole" — directed by Kody, shot by Kolin and featuring Kolette in a major role — they appear to have done just that.

"We got to stand up there and be recognized with other amazing filmmakers," Kody said.

Another Kody Dayish Productions project, a music video for a song by Kody's band, Our Last Chants, also was screened at the festival. But the highlight of the weekend came on the night of Feb. 16, when Kody was inducted as a Rising Star into the New Mexico Film and Television Hall of Fame.

Dayish said he was surprised and pleased by his induction, and he had to scramble to rent a tuxedo for the induction ceremony. But he takes it as further validation of the work he and his siblings are doing, thanking them for making the production company that bears his name a success.

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That kind of recognition should help bring the Dayishes to the attention of film industry types who could help them fund their work at a higher level. All the films the siblings have crafted so far were done with a shoestring budget. Kody said the group has been doing guerrilla marketing for "Parole," holding special screenings in communities around New Mexico and Arizona and selling DVD copies of the movie in an attempt to build an audience and generate funding.

The Dayishes have shown the film in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Gallup and Shiprock in New Mexico, and Window Rock, Tuba City and Kayenta in Arizona. Their next screening is planned for Feb. 27 in Tempe, Arizona, and Kody said he has been speaking to representatives of Allen Theatres Inc. about conducting a "Parole" screening in Farmington.

All three Dayish siblings work day jobs to help finance their cinematic dreams, but Kody said they all get together on weekends to hold screenings or plan their next step. While he has a lot of films in mind, Kody said the big project he envisions is a movie about Navajo Code Talkers called "Unbroken Code."

Related: Shiprock filmmaker plans Navajo code talkers film

The script for the project was completed in 2018, but Kody said he continues to polish it as he seeks financing partners for the film, which he envisions as a relatively big-budget project, one that ideally would feature well-known actors in its primary roles. Kody said the film likely would be a character-driven drama rather than an action-oriented film, although it will feature its share of combat scenes.

The Dayish siblings are pitching the film to various investors and production companies and hope to be able to have a plan in place by the end of the year for shooting "Unbroken Code." In the meantime, Kody said the networking he and his siblings did in Santa Fe has led to them being approached about getting involved in other film-related work, including serving as casting agents and location scouts, even modeling opportunities.

Kody said he and his siblings were excited by last weekend's developments, gathering after the induction ceremony to compare notes. He is confident the best is yet to come.

"We were like, 'Man, where do we go from here?'" he said. "But it seems like, as a family, we've always make the right step."

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Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/216TU0e

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