Sebastian Haselbeck, the founder and Executive Editor of The Spaghetti Western Database (SWDb), offers a brief account of the Database’s origins and its ongoing development.
I created the SWDb in 2004 in order to solve a problem that had been troubling me for a while: I was discovering the joys of watching Spaghetti Westerns, but I was having a hard time finding information about the genre’s many films and the people that made them. The Internet Movie Database wasn’t specialized enough for my needs and a number of existing websites that were dedicated to the genre (such as the A Fistful of Pasta or Shobary’s Spaghetti Westerns sites) were rudimentary in nature or about to be phased out. So I started building something like a Spaghetti Western encyclopedia on-line. I had started The Quentin Tarantino Archives for similar reasons about 5 years earlier, so I had gathered plenty of website building experience.
My initial experiments with the SWDb weren’t particularly fruitful but they did result in a small circle of helpers becoming involved. We eventually tried the same software that Wikipedia uses and its inherently collaborative nature has resulted in us using it ever since. We quickly managed to create entries for most of the genre’s films and we soon ended up with a convenient, searchable database dedicated to Spaghetti Westerns. The SWDb has continued to grow and it now includes all manner of Euro-Westerns, including those from Turkey, plus a good number of Mexican Westerns.
The SWDb is essentially a place for Spaghetti Western enthusiasts to gather on-line. Besides the entries for individual films we also host a growing number of reviews, retrospective articles, trivia and – sadly – obituaries. The collaborative nature of the SWDb led me to add a forum to it as well, where members and visitors could converse via a message board. In 2015 the forum was re-launched, underpinned by amazing technical additions that allow our community to access it via their mobile phones or to reply to discussions by email, as well as by regular web board postings.
Today, the SWDb has thousands of visitors daily from all around the globe, a sizeable following on social media channels and some solid partnerships with DVD labels and festival organizers. As far as I’m aware, it’s the biggest international publication and network run by and for Spaghetti Western fans in existence – and it wouldn’t have been possible without each and every one of the enthusiasts who have contributed to its content.
At its heart therefore, the SWDb is more than just a digital magazine or encyclopedia of genre films. It’s an international community of aficionados of all ages and stripes, united by a common love for one of the most fascinating movie genres. In 2008 a few of us traveled to Almeria, Spain to attend a Rolling Roadshow event (an endeavor by US-based theater chain founder Tim League that screens movie classics outdoors in the locations where they were filmed). We saw Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns projected in their filming locations and as we drank beer to wash down the dust gathered from location scouting we reminisced with our host Manuel Hernandez, who to this day has Clint Eastwood’s revolver on display in his tavern in Los Albaricoques.
Our forums are a constantly updated stream of news, opinions and expertise. Prolific reviewers such as Simon Gelten, veteran experts like Tom Betts of Westerns All’Italiana, DVD company owners like Explosive Media’s Ulrich Bruckner and scholars like Austin Fisher, are all part of a loose global network of enthusiasts that has been strengthened by the Internet’s ability to bring us all closer together. I personally view the SWDb as a humble way in which to honor the Spaghetti Westerns and their makers and to acknowledge the legacy that they’ve left for the world in the form of cinematic and cultural heritage.
There’s still a lot more that I want to accomplish with the SWDb. For example, our introduction to the genre article has already been translated into over 15 different languages and more multi-lingual content is something to strive for in the future. The number of facts, figures, reviews, articles, DVD information, book reviews, trailers and other information housed on the SWDb is growing weekly, making it a Spaghetti Western-related resource that is unsurpassed.
There’s no doubt that there will always be room for good books or documentaries on the subject, but putting all of this knowledge on people’s screens electronically and having it all just a few clicks or taps away is, I hope, a compelling and effective advocacy for this genre. And I hope that long after the last surviving actors and directors of the genre have passed away, we will still be playing a part in assisting young people to discover these great movies. If that’s a legacy of my work, and that of the SWDb’s community, then that’s something we can all be immensely proud of.
© Copyright 2017 Sebastian Haselbeck.