Alum filmmaker Zal Batmanglij’s The East to screen at Georgetown AMC this Thursday
As filmmaker Federico Fellini once said, “It’s better to destroy than to create something meaningless.” It’s an idea lost in much of filmmaking today, an era in which style has often trumped substance. Fortunately for Georgetown students, a film that authentically confronts the issues of our generation is coming soon to campus. Directed by Georgetown’s own Zal Batmanglij (COL’ 02) and featuring co-writer and actor Brit Marling (COL’ 05), The East will be screened this Thursday, April 18, and will be followed by a Q&A with the director, co-writers, and star.
Also starring Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgard, the film premiered at Sundance Film Festival this year and was also chosen to close South by Southwest. Combining a suspenseful story of corporate espionage with raw depictions of people hungry for truth and connections in a world increasingly detached of its humanity, it manages to be an entertaining thriller that also remains unabashed in the questions it raises about our way of life.
Director Batmanglij questions what it means to exist at this junction in time while also managing to include elements of eco-terrorism, anarchist collectivist groups, and freeganism. Inspired by Batmanglij and Marling’s own two months of adopting the freegan lifestyle and joining an anarchist collective, The East is concerned with the conflict between these kinds of radical communities and a dominant corporate culture.
This fascination with exiled societies is reflected in Batmanglij’s other Sundance breakout film, 2011’s Sound of My Voice. Also co-written by and starring Marling, the film follows a couple of documentary filmmakers who decide to infiltrate a basement cult. At its heart, it’s a story about faith and the search for meaning in a world overrun by skepticism—a thematic thread that clearly runs throughout this filmmaker’s work.
During his Georgetown years, Batmanglij made films on the side and met Cahill and Marling in the process. Having taken Professor John Glavin’s screenwriting class and contributed to a campus film festival, he graduated with a degree in anthropology and English before attending the American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles.
In a return visit to Professor Glavin’s class last Friday, Zal gave students advice on careers in filmmaking, inspiring us to create art from our deepest human experiences. Zal embraces his professional task of telling compelling stories while reminding us that, as artists, we are called to be vulnerable and open to form a bond with those that experience our art.
The East is screening at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday, April 18, at the AMC-Loews Georgetown.