On Westerns and Settler Migration: A Reading of “Meek’s Cutoff” by Kelly Reichardt


  • Elisa Bordin Ca' Foscari University of Venice




Kelly Reichardt, Meek’s Cutoff, Oregon Trail, feminist revisionist western, migration


This essay examines Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff (2010) as an example of ‘slow’ and feminist western film. In particular, it shows how, by applying an “austere” aesthetics (Gorfinkel 2015) and by giving prominence to the act of migrating rather than the act of settling, the movie rewrites pioneer history, offering an example of what Catherine Russel defines “migrant cinema” (2017). Because of the visual centrality given to the act of migration, with its feeling of geographical displacement and psychological apprehension, the movie situates itself alongside other contemporary films representing present-day migration, and questions the traditional western movement as a travel of self-confident expansion and colonization. In this sense, Meek’s Cutoff can be rather read as a “decolonizing” (Trimble Young and Veracini 2017) rendition of white migration in the West, mostly achieved by including two destabilizing characters within the group of white settlers, Emily Tetherow and a Cayuse Indian, who trigger reflections on matters of knowledge and alliances.

Author Biography

Elisa Bordin, Ca' Foscari University of Venice

Assistant Professor

Department of Comaprative Linguistic and Cultural Studies


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