So you saw A Million Ways to Die in the West but were a little miffed at the lack of Yiddish accents and that Sarah Silverman didn’t name-check utopian Jewish separatist Mordecai Manuel Noah? Luckily, the silver screen has gotten another chance to do it right. Moses on the Mesa, a short film from Paul Ratner, tells the unlikely story of Solomon Bibo aka Don Solomono, the first (and, so far as we know, only) Jew to hold the position of Indian chief, as governor of the Acoma Pueblo.
In Ratner’s film, Bibo’s transformation from “weak scholarly boy,” to “regular Jewish cowboy,” with lessons in shooting and horseback riding, somewhat parallels what comes to mind when we think of early Israeli settlers tilling the soil for the first time. It may not be coincidental, then, that Bibo and his brother do name-check Mordecai Noah—perhaps Noah’s lonely, failed attempt at a Jewish state feels familiar. Bibo’s eventual romance with wife-to-be Juana Valle, from whom he acquires his Acoma cred, is documented in classic Kermit-and-Piggy style, complete with garden chase.
The American West, especially in matters concerning land ownership, was an unforgiving place; but this film, perhaps seeking comparison with the desert settler of its title, portrays Bibo as a sanguine diplomat in a world where conflicts were usually settled with bullets.
Check for upcoming screenings here.