American West Center host film Series

By By Clayton Norlen

By Clayton Norlen

Cowboys are a symbol of the American West, but that hasn’t stopped international filmmakers from recasting this nostalgic figure.

The U’s American West Center and the Salt Lake Film Society are hosting a film festival featuring international Westerns throughout the month of November. The films, shown every Tuesday at the Broadway Theatre, were all directed by non-American filmmakers who have recast the cowboy to fit their own cultures.

A brief lecture is given before the films to provide cultural and political background so that viewers can better understand and contextualize cross-cultural moments in the film.

“I think people love the romantic ideals and the open spaces that are portrayed in westerns,” said Matt Basso, director of the American West Center. “In these international Westerns, the directors introduce the folk culture that their countries associate with the cowboy and then incorporate him into the culture.”

Following the screenings, a lecture on the country where the film originated is led by an expert. Basso said the speakers talk about the social, cultural and political themes that were addressed in the film while encouraging comments and conversation on the film from the crowd. The purpose of the festival is to get people thinking about the West differently and more critically while seeing how the West is viewed by other parts of the world, Basso said.

“It’s important to have a discussion follow the film,” said Boreth Ly, an art history professor. “The audience comes from such diverse backgrounds, so it’s important to have an expert there to intellectualize the discussion so the audience knows how to construct meaning from the themes and topics in the film.”

The center picked films that represent Salt Lake City’s diverse ethnic groups for the festival. The films and following discussion provide a forum for the public to learn about cultures through films that originated abroad and how those cultures romanticize or parody the West.

“We haven’t gone into these films with answers in hand, but to create an environment where we can ask certain questions and get people thinking,” said Eric Blackburn, a graduate student and director of the film festival.

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