In a story, co-written and directed by Zal Batmanglij, and starring co-writer Brit Marling, who plays an operative for an elite private intelligence firm who finds her priorities irrevocably changed after she is tasked with infiltrating an anarchist group known for executing covert attacks upon major corporations. (PG-13 – 116 minutes)
Writer/Director Zal Batmanglij
“You’re always doing a little bit of both, the project is finding you and you are finding it, that’s the happy dance. ‘The East’ was inspired by the summer that my writing partner Brit (Marling) and I spent traveling around America trying to find the underworld of America, the people who were living life differently, who were living ‘off the grid’. We couldn’t shake that experience so we decided to write a movie about it.
“We grew up with stories of ‘The Weathermen’ and ‘SDS’, and that was in our cultural fabric, and I never understood how that would play a role in our generation and now I think we need it more ever, is some form of the questioning authority. I’ve been on this college tour and from airport to airport, and everybody does exactly what he or she is told. No one questions it; everybody goes into the full body x-ray machine. Brit and I always opt out and the guy said to us the other day, ‘Do you guys travel a lot’, we answered every day. He said that’s good that you don’t do it; we don’t let the pilots do it either. I’m thinking to myself, what, they don’t let pregnant women or pilots go into that machine, and yet everybody else goes in with out questioning it.
“The East’ is about a conservative religious young woman who’s very ambitious and she wins the job of infiltrating an ‘anarchist collective’. So this conservative woman remakes herself as a traveler. When she gets there, she’s faced with morally grey soup that we’re all wading through these days and the s__t hits the fan! A very good factor for the film is that we always retain our audience after viewing ‘The East’ because people are really interested in these issues and they want to talk about them. Its not a question of whether or not they loved or hated the movie, it’s a question of the fact that they don’t get the chance to talk about a lot of the issues the film raises and they want to be part of that conversation.” – Zal Batmanglij
Writer/Actress Brit Marling (‘The East’)
“As a writer and you’ve created the character, when you play the part of the character after you’ve written it, sometimes there’s this moment of ‘Oh wow, can I really pull this person off’, can I really inhabit this person fully, and believe it fully, and make other people believe. I certainly had that with the character of Sara. I think I felt a bit intimidated by her!
We (the character) don’t have a lot in common, I’m kind of light hearted and loose, I like to laugh. The character of Sara is driven, and smitten by this occupation of hers, she’s a very physical person, she’s ex-FBI so she has a kind of physicality and this inner strength that’s different that how I operate in the world so it was very exciting with the training, the martial arts, stunts, and getting into a place where I could see the world from her perspective.
“In this film, the question is really about ‘deep cover’. If you go into deep cover, that’s a very radical job to do, you’re taking on a character, you’re taking on a fake name, you’re dressing differently, learning a different language, and trying to convince a group of people who may be very dangerous that you are this other person, and the threat of being found out is so great. Its like acting with the highest stakes of all time! You could be in deep cover for six months or more, and be lost in this world trying to infiltrate, and how do you hold onto your sense of self, and how do you not be moved by the new norms that exist in the ‘other world’.
“It was a very challenging role indeed, presenting two characters within the film who are totally different from each other, and the dichotomy of the influences by the circumstances of the people around the undercover character and the pushing, prodding, and pressure from her handler on the outside!” – Brit Marling
Stan Robinson – Film Columnist ~ Cynthia Tracy – Executive Assistant