European Westerns: Rethinking the Representation of the Wild West’s “Others” – Dr Lee Broughton, Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow in World Cinemas, University of Leeds
Venue: CE224, Creative Edge
A prolific researcher in the field of Westerns studies, Lee has also established the annual international workshop ‘Current Thinking on the Western’ and has organised multiple public screenings of Westerns in Leeds, including the Leeds International Film Festival.
Ed Buscombe and Roberta E. Pearson observe that ‘the conventional view is that the Western is sexist and racist, that it purveys a white male, indeed a middle-aged white Anglo-Saxon Protestant male view of the world’ (1998: 3). This line of thinking undoubtedly rings true if the focus of our attention is the Hollywood Western. However, Hollywood’s personnel are not the only filmmakers who have engaged with the Western genre in significant numbers.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, West German, Italian and British film producers were responsible for producing Westerns in such numbers that, between them, they annually eclipsed the number of Westerns being produced in America. Rejected by critics because of their perceived sense of difference or lack of cultural authenticity, many of these European Westerns have been forgotten by the public at large. However, as this paper will argue, when these Euro-Westerns are critically re-evaluated in terms of their representations of the Wild West’s “Others” a rather remarkable sense of difference can indeed be detected: these films feature progressive representations of African Americans, Native Americans and strong women that prefigure the appearance of similarly progressive representations in Hollywood Westerns.
As such, I argue that the received model of the Western’s evolution is problematized when an international dimension – which recognizes and respects local (West German, Italian and British) historical, cultural and political input – is applied to our investigations into the genre’s wider development.