The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Monday, February 4, 2013 - 7A
The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Monday, February 4, 2013 - 7A
Festival film'The East'
tack les political conflict
By CARLY KEYES
Daily Arts Writer
Over athousand people funnel
into the entrance. Press passes
hang from the necks of reporters
as cameras weigh down photog-
raphers' shoulders. Even in the
dead of winter, the popcorn line
flies out the door.
It was not a typical night at
On Thursday, Jan. 31, the
Michigan Theatre presented a
special screening of the official
Sundance Film Festival selec-
tion, "The East."
After a dragging presentation
celebrating the work of Russell
B. Collins, the theater's execu-
tive director and CEO, the main
event began and all was forgiven
- it was worth the wait.
The film follows a group of
eco-terrorists that refers to itself
as "The East," led by Benji (Alex-
ander Skarsgard, "What Maisie
Knew") and Izzy (Ellen Page,
"Touchy Feely"), who target cor-
rupt, big-name pharmaceutical
Whether a company pollutes
people with its dangerous drugs,
or the environment with toxic
waste from its industrial plants,
it better watch out for a "jam": a
carefully planned attack by The
East that gives the corporate top
dogs a taste of their own medi-
cine - sometimes literally.
Brit Marling ("The Company
You Keep") is Sarah, an under-
cover agent who joins the con-
niving clan to uncover its group
members' true identities and to
thwart their attempts to bring
She leads a relatively unknown
cast despite a few big-name stars,
but, here, the whole is greater
than the sum of its parts; the
actors who compose "The East"
ooze chemistry and function like
a family - one cohesive unit of
passionate activists. Despite the
"terrorist" label, their personali-
ties and "do-gooder" intentions
garner viewers' sympathies as
these eccentric environmental
advocates encounter serious risk
while seeking vengeance.
Marling and director Zal Bat-
mangli ("Sound of My Voice")
offer a bold and courageous
screenplay of clever quips. The
Michigan Theatre audience
came alive as the dialogue took
shots at the corporate world
- remarks that scorched and
mocked with force. But the larg-
est shock of the night came off-
screen when the two filmmakers
revealed that the imaginative
and captivating story had been
derived from a real-life experi-
They held a Q&A session after
the screening, led by Sundance
Film Festival Program direc-
tor Trevor Groth, during which
they mentioned that-"The East"
was inspired bya summer spent
traveling across the country
together, trying to spend as little
money as possible. They called it
a "buy nothing" summer.
"We learned to train hop and
dumpster dive, we slept on roof-
tops and we met a lot of anar-
chist collectives and alternative
communities," Marling said.
Batmangli described the pro-
cess of picking through garbage
to find his next meal.
"At first, the thought of eating
food from a dumpster nauseated
me. I wanted to observe people
doing it but I, myself, didn't want
to do it," he said.
Can vampires even have heart-to-hearts?
Then, after making a joke
about the "nicer" Whole Foods
and Trader Joe's dumpsters,
Batmangli got serious about the
"We feel so certain that when
we're in our normal lives ... eat-
ing out of a dumpster is wrong,"
he said. "Then when you realize
how much waste there is in the
world, you ask, 'What do we do
about that? What is our respon-
sibility for that?' As filmmakers
we wanted to ask those ques-
tions and start a dialogue."
"The East" is a wake-up call.
The film splatters "green" paint
all over the audience hoping that
it won't wash off. Viewers may
now think twice before they
throw away a half-eaten apple
or, on a larger and more destruc-
tive scale, release a harmful drug
to the market or dump chemicals
into a lake.
Marling and Zal have created
an authentic film that showcases
one of the most pressing con-
temporary global issues: the bat-
tle to protect and preserve the
environment. It educates and
inspires while it entertains; it's
art - great art - with a political
As the audience exited the
Michigan Theatre that night in
Ann Arbor, a city famous for its
balance of quality amusement
and academics (not to mention
its sustainability efforts), it's
safe to say they got their money's
t the mention of the accessible arts.
Detroit Institute of Arts, And it doesn't help that the
my brother's eyes glaze culture surrounding trips to
is attention turns back to museums, concert halls and
iat and my answer to his ballet premieres is "stuffy" and
are "uptight." Young adults are used
ng this to chewing popcorn and texting
nd?" is their boyfriends while watch-
nging ingthe new James Bond movie.
atmo- They're used to pre-gaming
concerts and dancing alongto
a clas- the music. With the ability to be
k three places at once, giving that
se to A up to spend the day insa hushed
ng that room, walking from one artist's
orts, work to another is a less-than-
mov- optimal option.
medy It's a sad development: There's
or cereal. a reason something is classic.
s 15 once. I can get on that It stands the test of time. Van
understand wantingto Gogh's Starry Night will never
the day in front of the TV, go out of style, as compared
Cocoa Puffs and texting to the majority of TV shows,
F "I'm soooo bored." But albums, films and Internet
ould art vie for atten- games people get attached to.
th "Girls"? Why is time And, if not for this reason alone,
t galleries being shelved it's important to be familiar with
r to increase time spent and appreciate the fine arts - to
g basketball? What about take time for them. But with the
e arts is unattractive for speed at which things come into
inger generations? fashion now, we've become used
art, the disconnect occurs to new, better, faster. Things that
e of the definition of "fine stay the same hold less interest
Because the fine arts are than the latest app.
arts created for aesthetic "I just feel like every time I go,
,there's no limit as to it's like ... I'm just standingthere,
an be included under the and it's cool and I get that it's
umbrella. They are not beautiful, but I breeze through
o have a practical pur- and I'm ready to go," my brother
ather, they are a break cracks, after I steal his iPod
he everyday, purpose- away. "And then when I'm done,
societies we inhabit. and no one else is, I feel like I
don't get it. Like I missed some-
thing. And then I'm bored."
and film are It's a new age of aesthetically
pleasing entertainment. It's not
ne arts too that the fine arts are misunder-
stood, it's just that they require
a different temperament - a
different pace. The speed of the
something gets lost in new world has turned art-goers
:tion. With the advent of into snobs and the new genera-
ex technology, high-speed tion into indifferent participants.
et, musical innovation and of course, I believe it's invalu-
:ion advances, the fine arts able and important to frequent
ecome outdated - second classical music concerts and art
these newfound, aestheti- exhibits. And I firmly believe
anovative outlets. Because, there's a lot to learn from the
lm is a form of fine art: It slower-paced arts. But it's get-
es little practical use, and ting harder to convince others of
ted for the enjoyment and this, to shove them into the DIA
ion of the viewer. And so long enough for them to under-
and music, and surfingthe stand why this form of arthas
et for pictures of cats. been around for centuries. So
brave new world of maybe it's up to our parents and
dly not fine arts-related grandparents to force us, to push
ve come and taken the us into the galleries and remind
f days spent in front of us to turn our phones off. To
paintings and Rodin enjoy something without rush-
ures. Rather than elimi- ing onto the next thing.
F IL M N OT EBOOK
Sundance shorts offer
emotional, lasting impressions
By NATALIE GADBOIS
Daily Arts Writer
Short films can confuse as
often as they transcend. They
have the difficult task of taking
snapshots of the human expe-
rience and turning them into
artistic pieces, while still making
something that is enjoyable and
relatable. In the best of Sundance
Shorts, 10 short films explored
aspects of family life, love and
sacrifice - all within very differ-
ent settings and contexts.
In a world increasingly at
odds with itself, three films,
"Robots of Brixton," "Fishing
Without Nets" and "Kthimi"
("The Eeturn"), addressed
themes of violence and survival
to gutting effects. In "Robots,"
animated robots wander the
streets of a decrepit, heavily
industrialized city. They join a
revolt in the streets - as the
robot police force attacks them,
the film flashes to real-time
images of other violent protests.
in Syria and England. Though
the visuals, at times, overpower
the message, the film illustrates
the senselessness of violence in a
world where we don't necessar-
ily control our own actions.
"Kthimi," set in war-torn
Kosovo, looks at violence in a
different way, delicately and poi-
gnantly following a husband and
wife the night of his return from
a four-year sentence in a Serbian
prison. They have a tender and
relatable relationship, which
makes the jarring brutalities all
the more heartbreaking. In 21
short minutes, director Blerta
Zeqiri deftly portrays a family
changed, but not ruined, from
pain and cruelty. It's possibly
the shortest film to ever make
an audience both laugh and cry
with shared anguish.
In a one-two punch, the
Somalian short "Fishing With-
out Nets" followed "Kthimi"
with its own tale of sacrifice
and dignity on the pirate-con-
trolled coast of Somalia. Abdi,
a young father, barely makes a
living fishing with nets, and the
film follows his identity crisis
as he decides between joining
the frighteningly inexperienced
and violent pirates, or living
without money or medicine for
his baby daughter. Filmed in an
actual Somalian village with a
shaky, handheld camera, "Fish-
ing," though simple, human-
izes a business seen only before
through the lens of CNN. R
While both "Kthimi" and
"Fishing" received a prolonged
ovation from the audience, other
shorts didn't pan out so well.
"Svamp" ("Fungus"), chronicles
a Swedish woman as she sits in
her dumpy apartment, listening
to public radio and complaining
about the venereal disease she
suspects her ex-boyfriend gave
her - it's bizarre and lifeless.
. Similarly, "Meaning of Robots"
focuses on a disheveled Santa fig-
into a a
o makes fully anatomical es have changed how we view
in his "Hoarder's"-like relationships. Chance is a shy
nt. Though the charac- boy whose life is changed when
raphic description of the he dates a girl through texting.
sexual positions of his The film elicits many laughs, but
draws laughs from the its message is eerily on point.
the film leaves no linger- "Bear" is a seemingly mun-
ught or theme. dane film until the last few
"Song of the Spindle" and seconds knock you breathless.
Hug Me I'm Scared" are It opens on a young couple as
ed music videos, discuss- they're getting out of bed in the
origin of human creativity. morning; him lazy and lethargic,
Hug Me" begins almost as her angry and frenetic. She leaves
ent from a Nick Jr. promo- for a bike ride, and he jumps into
video, and slowly morphs action, racing on back roads to
creepy, overblown view of set up a surprise birthday picnic
ncouraging creativity real- along her bike route. What hap-
pens next is so jarring that both
screams and nervous laughter
rang through the audience.
spite short "Dol"("FirstBirthday"),onthe
espitesh~rt other hand, is quiet and touching.
times these It follows Nick (Joshua Kwak,
"The Next Big Thing"), a gay
lected films Koreanman living in Los Ange-
les with his caring boyfriend and
move. - close family, as he attends the
first birthday party of his neph-
ew. The film subtly shows the
tender sadness of a man content
g," on the other hand, joy- with his life, but also irrevoca-
llustrates the importance bly separate from the world. Far
c by comparing whales to from a political statement, this
s: The only thing we have film provides a bittersweet snap-
mon is musical apprecia- shot of a man lost.
The lasting impressions of all
three final films offer these films vary, but this collec-
it ordinary, modern life. tion clearly identifies real prob-
s the most prescienf of all lems within our world today,
ilms for college students with most going further, finding
Arm," a funny, exagger- striking humanity in the small
ok at the way text messag- moments.
e fine arts from ourlives,
advanced as a society and
he need for a creative out-
h the new, exciting, easily
Sadovskaya is hanging out
at the DIA. To join, e-mail
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