Commies and Indians (Symposium)

Greetings Colleagues!

You are cordially invited to a free one-day symposium Commies and Indians: The Western Beyond Cold War Frontiers, to be held at the Edinburgh Filmhouse on 17 May 2013.

The event will feature contributions from a range of scholars including Professor Tim Bergfelder (University of Southampton) and Professor Dina Iordanova (University of St Andrews), and will include screenings of celebrated ‘Red Westerns’.
Please see below for full details, and here:

With best wishes,
Dr. Jonathan Owen (University of St Andrews)

One-Day Symposium – Commies and Indians: The Western Beyond Cold War Frontiers

In the 1960s the Western genre, then waning in its native Hollywood, took root in many European countries. Though Italy’s Spaghetti Westerns indeed remain the best-known result of this transposition, the genre also crossed political lines into Communist Eastern Europe. A highly diverse raft of state-socialist Westerns emerged that twist the genre’s familiar tropes in accord with local culture and history, not to mention the ideological demands of the Cold War.

These ‘Red Westerns’ sometimes play as uproarious parodies of the genre and sometimes as sincere examples of it; they sometimes adapt Western narratives to local histories and settings, and sometimes fabricate an American West with the help of lookalike European locations. If, say, Yugoslavia’s ‘Gibanica’ Westerns spin genre thrills out of that country’s wartime Partisan struggles, then East Germany’s Indianerfilme take place in a recognisable ‘West’ – albeit a radically reimagined one where the Indians are good and the American settlers bad.

Our one-day symposium will chart this fascinating episode in European popular cinema and address such questions as where these films stand in the history of the Western: how might they connect to post-classical, revisionist, demystifying modes of the genre as embodied by Peckinpah or Leone?  This topic also enables us to explore broader, marginalised realities of Eastern Bloc film. With their Hollywood borrowings and frequent dependence on co-production, these films reveal the centrality of the transnational to this region’s cinema. Their often Bloc-busting commercial success further affords consideration of popular pleasures in the people’s democracies.


9:30 – 10.00 Welcome and Opening Comments

10:00-12:00: PANEL 1 – Westerns Around the Bloc

Jonathan Owen : Czech Westerns

Sonja Simonyi : Hungarian Westerns

Dennis Hanlon : Latin American Westerns

12:00-13:00: Lunch Break

13:00-15:00: Screenings: Short Films and Apaches (Apachen, 1973, Gottfried Kolditz)

15:00-15:30: Coffee Break

15:30-17:30: PANEL 2 – East German Westerns

Evan Torner

Tim Bergfelder

Dina Iordanova

17:30-18:00: Close / Discussion



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