Jews of the Wild West
Q&A with director Amanda Kinsey
Widening the historical lens, this documentary focuses on an under-explored aspect of Jewish history: the role that Jews played in Western American expansion, both in real life and in the movies. Through a tapestry of archival footage, photographs, and interviews, Amanda Kinsey’s pioneering film entertainingly excavates the past through the stories of an array of people, from known names like Max Aronson (the real “Bronco Billy Anderson” of early Hollywood) and Levi Strauss, to some you may not have heard about, like the Prussian immigrant who became a tribal leader in New Mexico and the Sephardic painter and photographer who documented the Kansas, Colorado, and Utah territories in the 1800s. Kinsey also surveys the experiences of those persecuted European Jews who picked up stakes and left the American Northeast, forging westward for better opportunities. Through the narratives of such trailblazers, and interviews with contemporary Jewish Westerners, the film tells a tale of American resilience and determination too often left out of the official history books.