Ana Lily Amirpour made a splash on the cinematic scene when her first feature film, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, hit festivals in 2014. The film was shown at Sundance as part of the NEXT program, which features ‘pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling.’ Amirpour’s fresh interpretation of the vampire film was well received, and it was picked up and distributed by VICE.
Amirpour has had our attention ever since. She pushes the boundaries of what it means to be a Millennial filmmaker, with a relaxed attitude, a critical eye, and biting humor. As Amirpour stated in an interview, ‘If you had forty million dollars, when it comes to the actual physical part, you’re in a room, with a camera pointed at a couple of people saying shit.’
While only 36 years old, Ana Lily Amirpour can be considered to be a seasoned film director, as she has been making films since she was 12 when her father purchased a Sony Handycam. Amirpour hails from London, England, although she moved across the pond at an early age and was ‘immediately romanticized and seduced by American movies and pop culture,’ an influence which comes alive beautifully in her feature film. In Amirpour’s opinion, filmmaking comes naturally to those who grow up watching movies throughout childhood.
With this natural inclination as a foundation, Amirpour supplemented her self-education in film with a degree in art from San Francisco State and a master’s from the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television. With a nod to the filmmaker’s Iranian–American heritage, her first feature film is in Persian. The film is set in Bad Town, a fictional city in Iran. Her characters subvert expected gender roles in society, a theme most notable through the female vampire who preys on men as they walk home alone at night and the son who stays at home to take care of his addict father. The plot is part love story, part drama and part fantasy, proving that Amirpour is making her own rules.
Despite her prestigious education at UCLA where she joined alumni like Tim Robbins and Rob Reiner, Amirpour’s work actively distinguishes herself from the tradition that includes such directors. Her first feature film creates an entirely new genre – what she calls the ‘Iranian Vampire Western.’ Doing so allowed her to explore gender politics and the vampire trope within the setting of an imaginary Iranian town with notable American influences.
Amirpour was initially inspired to make the film by the feeling of wearing a chador, or headscarf, that she tried on while on set for one of her short films, Ketab. She attached this ‘badass’ feeling to that of an Iranian vampire, and the idea evolved into her first feature film. The ‘girl’ in the movie, who goes nameless, represents Amirpour’s unique personality and vision, displaying character peculiarities like using a skateboard as her mode of transportation while wandering the empty streets at night to prey on her victims. From the first few shots of the film – featuring a suave, 1950’s-esque young man walking through a town that looks to be in America while he speaks Persian – it is clear that this film is not what you expected.
Amirpour has opened the door for other Millennial filmmakers in creating her own genre and successfully translating her unique point of view into the medium of film. Amirpour’s 2014 film revived the vampire genre by infusing it with culturally and socially significant themes. Furthermore, she has exemplified what it means to respect the process of filmmaking and be true to the story. Amirpour’s work is a labor of love – whenever she has a script to finish, she picks up and goes to Las Vegas, where she sits in a hotel room for several days until she’s happy with the final result.
Amirpour has already demonstrated her affinity for bending genres, and her film that is currently in post-production, The Bad Batch, indicates that she will continue to do so. It stars Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey, and Amirpour describes it as ‘a cannibal love story set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland,’ adding that ‘it’s very Mad Max meets King Kong, meets Gummo.’ All signals indicate that her second feature film will embody a genre of its own, and we can’t wait to see where she takes the world of cinema.