The Keeping Room starring Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfield, and Muna Otaru can definitely be described as a Feminist Western. That being said, before watching this trailer it was kind of hard for me to imagine what an actual feminist western would be.
Initially, I assumed* that a feminist western would follow the same genre conventions of a standard western. Which would mean that a woman would roll into town, fix a problem with violence, and then leave the town and move on to the next one.
That's probably, maybe the simplest way to describe the Western genre but what The Keeping Room does is make it a fully Feminist Western, down to the way the narrative is shaped.
In a way, the film actually does follow the standard Western trope. But instead of putting the focus on the men that travel from town to town, it's about the women who are trying to defend themselves from the outside attackers (the men).
It plays on the idea that Westerns have created. Instead of having the women take the role of the men in the Western genre, it gives them their own role and creates something new and fresh. It also seems to follow the trend of having women lead action movies/thrillers**. Simply put, the film is extremely interesting to me because of the narrative/content.
With all that said, there is something problematic about the film. The film takes place towards the end of the American Civil War and the woman of color in the movie (played by Otaru) is a slave. While the women are defending themselves from an oppressing force, there is no discussion of the same issue when it comes to Otaru's character and her relationship to both Marling and Steinfield. Hopefully the full feature addresses this in some way, since the trailer didn't.
I can't wait to catch The Keeping Room in theaters on September 25th, 2015
*There's a huge problem with making assumptions like this one. As a man being raised in a patriarchal society, it's easy for me or any other man to assume that the foundation of films or genres start and end with a man. That being said, it's also problematic to assume that a "feminist film" will follow the same exact tropes a male film would. I can't assume that this new wave of feminist action films will use the same coded language that males have. As in, violence, confrontation, etc. It was a pretty poor decision on my part to assume it would be the same as a traditional (maybe traditional isn't the right word, maybe standard, or old-fashioned) Western except the role of the Man with No Name would be played by a woman. The creation of feminist movies or female-centric films, rests on the idea that we try and smash the established language created by a male-dominated society. Anyway, I shouldn't assume and you shouldn't either -- especially if you're male and these things interest you.
**Mad Max: Fury Road, Sicario, The Secret in Their Eyes, Joy, etc. All of these movies have a female lead doing things that used to be relegated to male actors. I'm sure there are more examples, let me know if I missed anything.