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Interview: 'Night Moves' director Kelly Reichardt on activism and bombs

Kelly Reichardt, director of the new eco-thriller "Night Moves," discusses how "Crime and Punishment" and "Rififi" influenced her latest.

Director Kelly Reichardt's credits include "Wendy and Lucy," "Meek's Cutoff" and the new "Night Moves." Credit: Getty Images Director Kelly Reichardt's credits include "Wendy and Lucy," "Meek's Cutoff" and the new "Night Moves."
Credit: Getty Images

"Night Moves," the latest from director Kelly Reichardt ("Wendy and Lucy," "Meek's Cutoff"), offers an intimate look into the lives of three radical environmentalists (played by Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard) looking to blow up a hydroelectric dam as a form of protest. And it's quite a detailed look — though she stops short of actually explaining how to build a bomb.

Environmental issues seem to be popping up in films more and more, as the issue is clearly not going away.

But it's been part of the conversation for a really long time. I can't remember when Earth First first started, but people have been trying to lay their bodies down in front of bulldozers that are going to knock down trees for quite a while now, you know? But nevertheless, we were just really trying to make something that was today and just create a world, basically.

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Where did this idea come from?

I don't know, it's been in the air with us for a while. My producer, Neil Kopp, was born and raised in Oregon, and Neil had grown up with a kid who had done something pretty radical that put him in jail for a while. If you're in the Northwest, it's around you. It's easy to wonder where the waterways came from, it's easy to look at the clear-cuts. People talk about the salmon a lot, so it's all sort of in the air.

But then also I had just re-read "Crime and Punishment" and we were drawn to this type of process film — like "Rififi," where you take time out in the middle of a film to really show how something's done. That was really attractive to me, the small steps to get to something as opposed to the big moment at the end of it. Basically how to take this little world that we hadn't seen represented in film so much and put it into the framework of a more traditional genre, and what would that look like?

Of course, when you're showing how people construct a bomb, you don't want to be too detailed.

Oh, you can go on the Internet and figure out how to build a bomb really quickly if you want, you know? [Laughs] For better or worse. I don't think ours acts as a real how-to guide in any way.

Right, you aren't naming types of charges or fuses, at least.

No, but you can Google Timothy McVeigh and find out everything you ever wanted to know, sadly, about building a bomb. You might not even want to put that in your article. [Laughs] My father was on the bomb squad for 20 years in Miami when I grew up, and I can remember being a teenager and some of my sister's friends stealing some of my dad's bomb-building books. The information's out there.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter @nedrick

 
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