American filmmaker, screenwriter and actor Ana Lily Amirpour has niftily crafted a uniquely dark and effortlessly cool cinematic aesthetic which has caused her to make significant waves in the indie film scene, since her foray into professional filmmaking in 2009. Debuting with a string of short films before the release of her breakthrough feature A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), Amirpour’s works are pervaded with an arrestingly virtuous yet lawless romanticism which has led to her being dubbed “the next Tarantino” of film with productions that exude a uniquely foreboding “Jim Jarmusch-like cool.”
Amirpour’s intoxicatingly emotive and quirkily idiosyncratic narratives which has come to be a central trademark of her film, can be exhibited in her earliest productions including from her inaugural film Six and a Half (2009), a 5-minute long short action drama following the actions of a young girl who decides to retaliate against a frog, after she accidently injures herself while trying to catch the reptile in a pond. Amirpour’s second short film which she both wrote and directed, True Love (2010), is no exception, depicting the experience of a single man who finds love in a restaurant occupied with couples despite only searching for short-term, sexual liaisons – a production which garnered Amirpour her first international accolade, the “Audience Award” for Best International Short at the 2010 Milano International Film Festival Awards.
Amirpour has been relentlessly consistent in her production of arrestingly eclectic works, following up her first two films with Ketab (2010), a Persian-language mystery drama set in Tehran, following a young man with big plans who goes to a bookstore to buy a book, and Anna Lily Amirpour Likes This (2010), a biographical documentary examining how people customize their “digital identities” on various social network sites. The following year, Amirpour’s Pashmaloo, a drama depicting the seemingly unlikely friendship between two young girls as they spend time in a mountainous region outside Tehran listening to music and disagreeing over the notion that women shouldn’t be ‘hairy.’ Amirpour’s 2011 horror-thriller, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, depicting the experiences of a girl strangely followed home by a man one night, was the precursor to Amirpour’s eponymous debut feature film and won her the Best Short Film Award at the 2012 Noor Iranian Film Festival.
Amirpour’s A Little Suicide (2012), a 10-minute long Kafkaesque animation about the meanderings of a suicidal cockroach for which she received a nomination for the “German Independence Award” at the 2012 Oldenburg Film Festival and the “Best International Short Film” award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, was followed up by two screenwriting involvements. Namely, the short film I Feel Stupid (2012), directed by Los Angeles-based cinematographer Milena Pastreich, portraying the tumultuous experiences of 15 year-old Leni who undergoes a sexual awakening with the arrival of Amber in her life, in addition to the feature film in which Amirpour also starred, The Garlock Incident (2012), a gripping thriller about the disappearance of a group of people in the Ghost town of Garlock, California. The latter proved to be an apt antecedent to Amirpour’s debut feature film, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), a Persian-language American horror film depicting the exploits of a forlorn female vampire, lauded by critics for its subversive gendered undertones and garnering Amirpour the Best Short Film award at 2012 Noor Iranian Film Festival.
Set in the fictive modern-day underbelly of an Iranian society haunted by decrepitude and solitude, the frequently dubbed “Iranian Vampire Spaghetti Western” follows a teenage vampire misfit who traverses the streets of Tehran at night to feed on young boys who have committed so-called ‘evil deeds’ which the gothic outsider won’t let go unpunished. An artfully glossy production featuring the seductively sombre and broodingly atmospheric qualities of old-school vampire productions, the film’s originality is staunchly rooted in the deeply political aware nature of the emotional alienation which pervades the narrative, primarily through the anti-heroic, hijab-wearing, man-eating skateboard-riding vampire who encounters a man for whom she possesses more emotional tenderness than the other men on whom she has previously fed on.
Amirpour’s latest film, The Bad Batch (2016), maintains the qualities of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night in its equally violent and romantic nature, a romantic horror-thriller film which Amirpour has described as “a post-apocalyptic cannibal love story set in a Texas wasteland.” Starring Jason Momoa, Jim Carrey and Keanu Reeves, the film won the Special Jury prize at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival, the “Revelations Prize” at the 2014 Deauville Film Festival and the “Citizen Kane Award” for Best Directorial Revelation at the Sitges Film Festival, all in same year, demonstrating that Amirpour’s haunting directorial prowess is only gaining might.
Significantly, Amirpour was appointed a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences this year, a feat representative of the wide international praise that the Los Angeles-based filmmaker has garnered over the years, an advancement which may be founded in the fact that, for Amirpour, the process of filmmaking figures deeply in her own communicative and personal exploration in life. “I make films to make friends,” Amirpour declares. “It’s just me, lonely, trying to figure out how to be a human being.”
Perhaps Amirpour’s sentiment attests to why the dominant themes of her works, alienation (the dejected predatory vampire of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night), dislocation (the miserable cockroach searching for acceptance in A Little Suicide) and the complexities of human relationships (the various falsified personalities of everyone in Anna Lily Amirpour Likes This) all resonate so deeply with her consistently mesmerized audience.