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Sundance Review: Freegans to the barricades

by on January 25, 2013

One of Sundance’s favorite filmmaking teams, director/writer Zal Batmanglij and actress/writer Britt Marling, premiered “The East,” a sharp, enviro-spy thriller that you’ll likely be seeing in art theaters later this year.

Sarah Moss (Marling) is an undercover agent for a private security firm that contracts with companies to eliminate “terrorist” threats, including American activist groups. Moss, who could hold her own with 007, is sent out to bring down a mysterious cell of radical environmentalists called The East.

“The East” is an Earth First!er’s fantasy. The freegan group lives off the bounty of dumpsters (Batmanglij and Marling say they lived as freegans for three months to research the script) while carrying out actions against large mining and pharmacuetical corporations. The East gives the evil greedpigs a dose of their own medicine, literally. The top brass of a drug corporation has their wine dosed with the the company’s vaccine that has been found to have horrific side effects. A mining exec is forced to swim in his power plant’s carcinogenic effluent. Eew.

Moss is won over to The East’s objectives, but has a moral dilemma with the group’s means to an end—is it OK to hurt or kill those who poison the earth, even if you do it with their own poisons?

“The East”‘s ending is somewhat of a cop out, perhaps to prevent the film from being labeled an anarchist’s cookbook for environmentalists.

I had to wonder if “The East”‘s  enthusiastic audiences noticed that the mountains around them are scarred with ski slopes.


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