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still from First Cow (Kelly Reichardt, US 2019)

First Cow

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Kelly Reichardt / US, 2019 / 122 min.

It’s not the guns and revolvers that do the talking in this western, but the yummy cakes sold by a determined cook and his Chinese business partner. Kelly Reichardt’s alternative take on the western was enthusiastically received.

Poster First Cow

Fur trappers were not the only ones to venture out into the wilderness of Oregon at the beginning of the 19th century. A taciturn cook and a Chinese immigrant set up a small trade in oily cakes that are wildly popular in the Wild West. The only small problem: they are made with stolen ingredients.

Director Kelly Reichardt (Old Joy, Meek’s Cutoff) wrote the script together with Jonathan Raymond, author of the novel that inspired the film. First Cow firmly establishes Reichardt’s name as a storyteller of rural America, a land of promise, far removed from the hectic pace of the cities.

Like the western, First Cow is a tribute to people on the margins of society. They grab their chances, but instead of guns, they reach for a spoonful of honey and a bucket of milk. A wonderful alternative script that has urgent political significance. The film was shown in the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear competition.

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Kelly Reichardt

Production year




Original title

First Cow


122 min.







Part of

Previously Unreleased

The films featured in Eye’s Previously Unreleased programme were screened at major national and international festivals, but were never released to Dutch cinemas. Every summer, Eye brings a choice of films previously selected for international festivals to Dutch film audiences to redress the balance.

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Why in Eye

For years, low budget indie filmmaker Kelly Reichardt has been ranking high on Eye’s list of favourite directors. Meek's Cutoff (2010) and Certain Women (2015) were already featured in our Previously Unreleased programme, while Eye collaborated to restore River of Grass (1995, analogue restoration).

still First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)
still First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)

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