West of What

West of What?! as in, What the Hell Was That?

WestofWhat

The Western genre did more than any other to promote the myths of westward expansion, define a narrow traditional view of masculinity, present absurd gender stereotypes for women, and normalize genocide. Rather than lock them up as politically incorrect images of our shared past, West of What?! wades into this complicated vision, from casting Rock Hudson as Young Bull in Winchester ’73, to more complex yet still questionable treatments of race and ethnicity in Little Big Man. If we peel back a layer or two, we can find trailblazing directors like Nicholas Ray, more recently Kelly Reichardt, and many in-between, who question those assumptions and present more problematic views of the West. A quartet of educators, writers and programmers will be presenting different visions of the West throughout the rest of 2017 and well into 2018. We hope you’ll join us for a fascinating journey, into the West.

Johnny Guitar

Introduced by Michael Falter
The title character, played by Sterling Hayden, is a guitar-strumming drifter who was once the lover of Arizona saloon-owner Vienna (Joan Crawford). Though her establishment doesn't make a dime, Vienna doesn't care because the railroad is going to come in soon, bringing a whole slew of thirsty new customers. This puts her at odds with rancher Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge), who doesn't want any new settlers on her land. Hating Vienna with a purple passion, Emma...
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True Grit

Educator, film critic, and writer Melissa Tamminga introduces True Grit (1969) vs. True Grit (2010).
In True Grit, Wayne plays grumpy, pot-bellied U.S. marshal "Rooster" Cogburn, hired by 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Kim Darby) to find Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey), who killed her father. The headstrong Mattie could have had her pick of lawmen, but selects the aging Cogburn because she believes he has "true grit". Also heading into Indian territory in search of Chaney is Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Glen...
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The Symbol of the Unconquered / Two-Gun Man from Harlem

Professor Michael Johnson - author of "Hoo-Doo Cowboys and Bronze Buckaroos", who brings conceptions of the African American West starting with Oscar Micheaux’s 1920 silent The Symbol of the Unconquered + Herb Jeffries in Two-Gun Man from Harlem.
The Symbol of the Unconquered: Directed by Oscar Micheaux and designed especially for black audiences, this silent romance flirts with the notion of miscegenation -- the hatred of inter-racial relations. The trouble begins when a dark-skinned black finds himself avoiding the affections...
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Buck and the Preacher

Video Introduction by Michael Johnson
At the end of the Civil War, African-American ex-soldier Buck is looking for places in the West where former slaves can settle. But an unprincipled man named Deshay is working with his ruthless gang of outlaws to try to stop Buck's work and keep the people working as slaves in Louisiana. When Buck meets a con man in disguise who is calling himself the Preacher, the two men band together to stop Deshay and his...
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The Book of Eli

Video Introduction by Michael Johnson
In a post-apocalyptic America where the once-picturesque countryside has become a desolate and violent wasteland, one man (Denzel Washington) fights to protect that sacred tome that could hold the key to the survival of the human race in this futuristic thriller from filmmaking duo Albert and Allen Hughes (From Hell and Dead Presidents)....
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In the Land of the War Canoes / Nanook of the North

Introduced by Roger Fernandes, Educator, Storyteller, Tribal Historian. Roger provides a framework for looking at films within the Western genre in new and far more revolutionary ways than traditional Hollywood histories presume. By looking for what is missing, we can discover the profound presence of Native peoples that can help guide us to a new understanding of the Western. Roger begins with In the Land of the War Canoes (1914) by Edward Curtis and Nanook of the North (1922) by...
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Little Big Man

Introduced by Roger Fernandes
Adapted from the novel by Thomas Berger, Little Big Man opens with the spoken reminiscences of 121-year-old Jack Crabbe (Dustin Hoffman, immersed in tons of age makeup). In flashbacks, we see how, as a young and wide-eyed frontiersman, Crabbe is adopted by an Indian tribe led by philosophy-spouting Chief Dan George. The film's highlight is the Little Big Horn massacre, with megalomaniac General Custer (Richard Mulligan) self-destructing as Crabbe looks on. Faye Dunaway shows up along...
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Atanarjuat: Fast Runner

Introduced by Roger Fernandes
This sweeping epic features a cast of Inuit actors and is based on one of their ancient legends. Natar Ungalaaq stars as a young Inuit who falls for a woman (Sylvia Ivalu) who has been promised to the unlikable son of the tribal chief. The drama plays out against a stark Arctic background and includes some astonishing outdoor sequences....
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