Jacob Riis was a late nineteenth century social reformer who used his camera to expose parts of New York City avoided by the smart set. He ventured into the poor districts ruled by gangs. Daily life for the unfortunate inhabitants was dismal and violent … far more violent than the infamous Wild West. The film, Gangs of New York, focused on a small time frame covered by the 1928 book by Herbert Asbury.
In The Return, I wanted to show New York’s explosive progress in technology and wealth creation, while a few blocks away gangs and lawlessness dominated neighborhoods. A common misconception is that the Wild West was ignorant, lawless and lacking in basic comforts, while eastern cities were cultured and ordered, with the basic amenities close at hand. Eastern city slums couldn’t hold a candle to safety and opportunity on the frontier. For many, the West was a chance for a new start in life, one with more promise than a bleak future in the East. Hope drove the mass migrations to the frontier. People endured hardship on the chance of securing a better future for themselves and their families. In truth, that is the great story of the Wild West.
|The Return, A Steve Dancy Tale|