Photographer and visual anthropologist, Eric O'Connell, explores a subculture of cowboys in the former East Germany, a sub-culture who have adopted and adapted the lifestyle of the American Western Cowboy.
Developing behind The Wall, cowboy represents ideas of freedom and individualism. Emerging from the shadows of Communism in 1989, Cowboy takes on a new face, representing for the East Germans many of the good things from Communism like helping one's neighbor, and the simple pleasures of a non-materialist country life, represented in values of family, attachment to the land, and to animals.
Atmospheric, observational and ethnographic, the story is told as much in images as in the skillful intertwining of varied interviews. Characters who have made a living under both that of communism and now capitalism reveal, in a visually rich film, why "the cowboy thing" is so symbolic for people of the former East.
A short film (10-min. Cowboys: East Germany, The Americans) was made prior, asking American cowboys: Who can be a cowboy? And, What is Cowboy? Using video taken from a screening of this film with the Germans as meta-commentary, the Germans seem to respond to the Americans.