Art / iran / Theatre and Film

Zal Batmanghelj – A Kind of American Anarchism

zal 77795404It’s not easy being the brother of a famous musician, we imagine, having to always be referred to as “the brother of…” so we won’t got there. Instead let us direct your attention to this gripping trailer which caught ours, for a film co-written and directed by Zal Batmanghlj in 2011.  We happened on this trailer and truthfully only found out about ‘the brother’ through further research. Plus his mother and father are well known, so what of his career in its own right? Enough said.

Although having said that, Zal may still be related to Camila Batmanghelidjh who we interviewed in 2008. Impossible you say? Poor/lucky guy. More on Zal below the trailer…

According to IMDb Batmanglij spent time being broke, hopping trains, hanging out with ‘anarchists’ alongside Brit Marling who acts the central role in The Sound of My Voice. He and his brother are both openly gay. He said about this “It’s awesome to be part of a gay family. Right now, my brother and I can focus on our work, our creative work, and our parents can support that. These are our weddings…You have to let go of the fantasy or the projection of your life and accept the life that you are living communally.”

His latest work The East 2013 again stars Marling, who co-wrote the featurette. The strapline for the film is Spy on us, and we’ll spy on you. In this you can find references to Batmanglij’s days running around as much outside of a system as he could be living in a city. The film shares the same kind of visceral tension as the first, but moves out of the small circle of a cult that looks inwards, to a ‘cult’ that looks outwards. And this time the suggestion that perhaps there’s some truth in the collective’s thinking rings louder.

The write-up for the featurette goes like this:

the-east-posterTHE EAST, a suspenseful and provocative espionage thriller from acclaimed writer-director Zal Batmanglij and writer-actress Brit Marling, stars Marling as former FBI agent Sarah Moss.  Moss is starting a new career at Hiller Brood, an elite private intelligence firm that ruthlessly protects the interests of its A-list corporate clientele. Handpicked for a plum assignment by the company’s head honcho, Sharon (Patricia Clarkson),Sarah goes deep undercover to infiltrate The East, an elusive anarchist collective seeking revenge against major corporations guilty of covering up criminal activity.   Determined, highly-trained and resourceful, Sarah soon ingratiates herself with the group, overcoming their initial suspicions and joining them on their next action or “jam.” But living closely with the intensely committed members of The East, Sarah finds herself torn between her two worlds as she starts to connect with anarchist Benji (Alexander Skarsgård) and the rest of the collective, and awakens to the moral contradictions of her personal life.

However the writers are not referring to the East as we think of it. The film is an insider’s critique of US policy regarding the accountability of people in power, especially corporate power. Batmanglij says of the film:

Frank Baum when he made the Wizard of Oz, made the wicked witch of the East because he thought that […] Washington was a corrupt place that was screwing over Kansas, and […] we’ve always thought of the east as sort of the East Coast, and New England and this   centre of power and it’s so funny this idea of New England privilege or American preppiness and so it was interesting to us to take a bunch of kids from the sort of New England East and make them turn towards the other, reject all these luxuries and sort of go towards the opposite direction from the West.”

You can find out where it’s screening here.