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FUTURES: 'Sound of My Voice' Director/Writer Zal Batmanglij

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire April 26, 2012 at 12:39PM

Why He's On Our Radar: The 2011 Sundance Film Festival served as a springboard for remarkable number of writer/directors, all with bright futures ahead of them. Mike Cahill of "Another Earth," Dee Rees of "Pariah," Sean Durkin of "Martha Marcy May Marlene," and Evan Glodell of "Bellflower," all made strong impressions, garnering distribution deals and a wealth of buzz. Zal Batmanglij, whose "Sound of My Voice" (co-written by star Brit Marling, who was also in Park City with "Another Earth") screened in the NEXT section, saw him film sell to Fox Searchlight and top Indiewire's 2011 mid-year critic's poll. But unlike the writer/directors mentioned above, he still has yet to see his first feature open theatrically. That changes this Friday.
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Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij at a screening of "Sound of My Voice" presented by Gucci.
Dave Allocca/Starpix Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij at a screening of "Sound of My Voice" presented by Gucci.
Why He's On Our Radar: The 2011 Sundance Film Festival served as a springboard for remarkable number of writer/directors, all with bright futures ahead of them. Mike Cahill of "Another Earth," Dee Rees of "Pariah," Sean Durkin of "Martha Marcy May Marlene," and Evan Glodell of "Bellflower," all made strong impressions, garnering distribution deals and a wealth of buzz. Zal Batmanglij, whose "Sound of My Voice" (co-written by star Brit Marling, who was also in Park City with "Another Earth") screened in the NEXT section, saw him film sell to Fox Searchlight and top Indiewire's 2011 mid-year critic's poll. But unlike the writer/directors mentioned above, he still has yet to see his first feature open theatrically. That changes this Friday.

The thriller concerns a young documentary filmmaker couple who infiltrate an underground cult in the San Fernando Valley, headed by the enigmatic and mysterious Maggie (Marling). "Using a chapter-based structure and littering the story with unresolved details about Maggie's origins, the director plays up the situational intrigue to a consistently provocative degree, maintaining a creepy feel from start to finish," Eric Kohn wrote in his review of the film, out of Sundance.

What's Next: Batmanglij and Marling teamed re-teamed with Fox Searchlight for their upcoming thriller, "The East." In the film, Marling stars as a contract worker tasked with infiltrating an anarchist group, only to find herself falling for its leader. Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Julia Ormond and Patricia Clarkson all star.

Batmanglij told Indiewire that he hopes to do another movie with Marling, once he's done editing "The East." "We spent so many years laying down the track, and we've got it down a little bit now," he said. "I actually want to now take the train for a test drive and really try it out. I want to write a big movie."

Where are you at right now with "The East"?

We finished shooting "The East" in December. I'm in the editing room right now. We're editing till 10pm every night. I've just taken a couple days to play hooky.

Sundance Review | A Cult and A Time Traveler in NEXT Entry "The Sound of My Voice"
Fox Searchlight "Sound of My Voice"
What's it like having completed principal photography on your follow-up, and now finally seeing your debut hit theaters?

I thought the timing couldn't have been better. Right after SXSW, we started working on "The East" with Fox, and then we prepped in the summer and started shooting in the fall. And now we've been editing. You can start seeing "The East" on the horizon. She's starting to show her mast.

I watched "Sound of My Voice" for the first time since Sundance with an audience at MoMA on Sunday, and god that was fun. For all the problems I have with this movie, and all of the mistakes I see and all the warts -- gosh, it's deeply original. I'm grateful for that.

About those warts… you haven't tinkered with it since Fox bought it?

No. It's cool, because it's like a time capsule. I think about a lot of my favorite directors and I think about their first films, and I have great admiration for the earthiness of those films. It'll be interesting to see "Sound of My Voice" years later. But I love "Following," or "Pi." What beautiful, earthy films.

"Sound of My Voice" is earthy, but it's also extremely mainstream in its appeal.

I'm very fascinated by genre. When I was 14 I saw "Terminator 2." My mind was blown. What a beautiful movie. I found it really deep and also so entertaining. And then I watched "Red," by Krzysztof Kieslowski six months later. The films had a lot of the same themes: time travel and destiny. I thought, it's funny that these films are so different and so alike. And I was like, why can't you combine your favorite qualities from James Cameron, your favorite qualities from Kieslowski? What is that sweet spot in the venn diagram of that? That's always sort of been my compass -- what I'm interested in.

This article is related to: Futures, Zal Batmanglij, Sound of My Voice, Interviews





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