“We are The East ... We want all those who are guilty to experience the terror of their crimes,” begins the trailer for a new Sundance Film Festival movie, set for limited release on May 31. One of the stars has said she thinks “there is an element of wish fulfillment” in the film, which depicts the group targeting businesspeople.
“The East” is a fictitious film that depicts the efforts of an anarchist environmentalist terrorist group that targets corporations and CEOs. Those terrorists appear to be the protagonists of the movie. In the minute and thirteen second trailer, there are depictions of the CEOs that this group will target with their eyes scratched out, and others with “GUILTY” stamped on their faces.
In a threatening tone Ellen Page (who plays one of "The East") says, “It’s easy when it’s not your life. Easy when it’s not your home. But when it’s your fault it shouldn’t be so easy to sleep at night. Especially when we know where you live.” As her threats are spoken images of businesspeople, a member of “the East” aiming a rifle, and other disturbing acts are shown onscreen.
In an interview with HuffPost Live on May 21, director and co-writer Zal Batmanglij claimed his movie was not a call to commit eco-terrorism. “It’s a movie about ideas. It’s about the idea of what they do to these people,” he stated.
Later in the segment, star and co-writer Brit Marling chimed in that “The East” is controversial because it “crosses lines” and that’s what could offend people. “I think there is an element of wish fulfillment for a lot of people who watch this,” she said.
Batmanglij attempted to justify making a movie that would seem to promote terrorism saying: “The East is a thriller.”
“I think it has two guns in the movie and one person dies in the entire film,” Batmanglij said. At least one of those guns was shown in the trailer. But it clear that “The East” intends to torment it’s corporate targets.
The trailer concludes with a chilling quote that alludes to violence. “We will counter attack three corporations in the next six months for their world wide terrorism and this is just the beginning.”
On May 10, Glenn Beck responded to this trailer by calling the movie “evil.” When asked about this during the HuffPost Live interview, Batmanglij dismissed Beck’s concerns completely, and contradicted his claim that this movie is not encouraging terrorism. “It’s sweet of him [Beck] to think that people holding corporations accountable is evil.”
While film and television villianization of corporations and CEOs is nothing new, “The East” may go much farther. The MRC’s Business and Media Institute found that on primetime television shows, victims were 21 times more likely to be kidnapped or murdered by businessmen than the mob. Businessmen also committed crimes five times more often than terrorists and four times more often than street gangs. They were nearly as prolific villains (21 felonies) as hardened criminals like drug dealers, child molesters, and serial killers put together (23 felonies).
Similarly, Oscar-nominated movies in 2006 also negatively portrayed businesspeople. Anti-business themes were prominent among the films chosen for those 30 spots. Businesses and businessmen were depicted in a predominantly negative fashion. Most of the businessmen who had prominent roles were portrayed in some negative way - as obnoxious, bigoted, immoral or worse.