Movie The East – interview with Director

Zal Batmanglij
Zal Batmanglij
Web site Female First captured an interview with Zal Batmanglij Director’s of The East (being released in the UK this week).

The East is about a young woman who works for a private intelligence firm. She is conservative and religious and she remakes herself as the exact opposite in a bid to infiltrate a group of anarchists who are committing direct actions against corporations, is how Zal sums up the plot.

– You wrote and directed – so where did the idea for the film start?

I co-wrote it with the leading lady Brit Marling and for us it started with the idea that we were seeing a lot of generational frustrations. I think our generation felt frustrated in a way that was that was unique and palpable and we wanted to capture that.

We thought the idea of a person from the corporate space and people from living off the grid that naturally comprised two extremes of the generation.

I read the film was loosely inspired by a ‘buy nothing’ summer the pair of you spent travelling around?

It gave us a real insight into people who were living off the grid. Because we experienced ourselves living off of the grid we were taken by the freedom of that experience and wanted to explore that in this story to.

You penned the screenplay with Brit Marling, so how do you find the whole co-writing process?

I find that it is the only way to do it because otherwise it would be so lonely (laughs). It think if I was interested in writing on my own I would be a novelist, – then you could write about yourself and that would be it — you wouldn’t need anyone else.

In film it is always collaborative and so to me it doesn’t make sense to not be collaborative in one of its most critical arenas – which is the screenplay.

The beauty of the script was it was like a litmus test and we were looking for people who responded to the material unequivocally and were excited to be part of the process and wanted to make a film in a collective way; in a way that the movie discusses.

I think that people who read the script either closed it and said ‘this is not for me’ or they closed it and were like ‘I have to be in this’. We were interested in the people who felt that they had to be in there.

It is like looking for love; some people chase people who are least interested in them but we weren’t interested in that.

The movie played at Sundance earlier this year and it seems to be doing really well so far so how have you found the response to the film?

So far it is going really nicely. We took the film to ten American cities and the audiences were engaged in every city because they wanted to talk about the ideas in the film.

I was most struck in Philadelphia where there were a lot of young teenagers in the crowd with their parents and the lively discussion that ensued afterwards was heart-warming.

We have had really nice conversations with people. There is a lot of room to have a lot of different interpretations with this movie and so we are not asking someone to adopt a certain with of thinking we are asking people to be more thoughtful on all of these subjects.

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