Ana Lily Amirpour

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Ana Lily Amirpour
Ana Lily Amirpour (cropped).jpg
Amirpour in 2014
Born (1980-11-26) 26 November 1980 (age 40)
Alma mater
  • Film director
  • screenwriter
Years active2009–present

Ana Lily Amirpour (Persian: آنا لیلی امیرپور‎ is an English-born Iranian-American film director, screenwriter, producer and actress. She is best known for her feature film debut A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, self-described as "the first Iranian vampire spaghetti western"[1] that made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014,[2] and which was based on a previous short film that she wrote and directed, which won Best Short Film at the 2012 Noor Iranian Film Festival.[3]

Early life[edit]

Amirpour was born in Margate, England, and moved to Miami, Florida with her family when she was young.[4] Her family then settled in Bakersfield, California, where she attended high school.[5] Later, she attended San Francisco State University as an art major for her undergraduate degree, and then graduated from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.[6] She has been making films since she was 12 years old.[7]

Amirpour's love for film came about the same time she moved to the United States with her family in the 1980s. She speaks often about the culture shock she experienced and her connection with American films. "I got hooked on them. It's how I assimilated and became American, through American pop culture and music—Madonna, Michael Jackson. And movies. I was always putting on shows and stuff. My dad got a camcorder when I was 12 and I started making films and imitating commercials. Like, I would remake commercials. I wasn't like, I’m going to be a filmmaker. My parents, they never encouraged that; I don't know how they even would have. Iranians don't do that."[8]

Amirpour suffers from 30% hearing loss which she correlates with her lack of dialogue in her films.[9]


Feature films[edit]

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)[edit]

Amirpour's feature directorial debut was A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, self-described as "the first Iranian vampire spaghetti western" "with elements of film noir and the restraint of Iranian New Wave cinema"[10] and starring Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh, Dominic Rains, Mozhan Marnò and Rome Shadanloo. The film built up significant buzz when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, eventually being picked up by Kino Lorber and distributed by VICE films.[11] The film also won the "Revelations Prize" at the 2014 Deauville Film Festival and the Carnet Jove Jury Award, as well as the Citizen Kane Award for Best Directorial Revelation from the Sitges Film Festival. The film was also nominated for the Halekulani Golden Orchid award at the Hawaii International Film Festival.

At the film's premiere, VICE Creative Director Eddy Moretti, whose company released the film, called Amirpour "the next Tarantino".[12] The New York Times's A.O. Scott also remarked that the film had a "Jim Jarmusch-like cool" and a "disarmingly innocent outlaw romanticism."[13] In the wake of the film's release, Filmmaker named her to their 2014 list of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film.[14]

Amirpour's debut film underscores her interstitial identity as an Iranian-American through its landscape and language. Wide shots featuring the monotonous, dipping movement of dark, heavy machinery against an industrial backdrop in A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night can bring to mind either "an American suburban neighborhood" or "the oil fields of Iran."[15] The film's language offers layered meanings for both an Iranian and American audience. For instance, an English-speaking audience may call the fictional town of the film "Bad City," whereas an Iranian audience may interpret it as "Wind City," depending on the particular audience's understanding of an English subtitle-based or Persian-based reading of Arash's license plate.[15]

The Bad Batch (2016)[edit]

Amirpour described her second film, an English-language film entitled The Bad Batch as "a post-apocalyptic cannibal love story set in a Texas wasteland" where a "muscled cannibal breaks the rule ‘don't play with your food’" - "It's Road Warrior meets Pretty in Pink with a dope soundtrack."[16][17] She has also described it as "very violent" and "very romantic" and like "El Topo meets Dirty Dancing".[18] The film stars Jason Momoa,[19] Jim Carrey and Keanu Reeves.[20] It premiered at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival on September 6, 2016 and won the Special Jury prize.[21]

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon and Cliffhanger (TBD)[edit]

Amirpour's third feature film is Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, starring Kate Hudson. The movie is described as "a mind-bending adventure set in the humid, neon-lit streets of New Orleans. Inspired by adventure films of the 1980s and ’90s, the film follows a young girl with special abilities. After escaping from an asylum, she enters back into the chaotic reality around her, making unexpected allies along the way."[22] It was filmed in New Orleans in summer 2019 and was produced by John Lesher. No release date has been set.[23]

In May 2019, Amirpour announced that she will direct a female-led reboot of the 1993 film Cliffhanger[24]

Amirpour writes all of her scripts in Las Vegas.[25]

Style and themes[edit]

Amirpour's films are known for being highly stylized and her creative choices often revolve around the mixing and meshing of cultural backgrounds and genres. Music and score is of the utmost importance in her work. "I love music and whenever I start thinking of a story or characters there's always music that pops up. It's just as much as an outfit that you'd think they would wear. The music they listen to will tell you more about their character."[26] All of these can be best seen in her first feature, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night - a film that is widely regarded as the "first Iranian vampire western"[27] Inspiration from the eastern and western words are equally present in all her work.

Her films typically revolve around central female characters who are outcasts in their own worlds. In her A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night Q&A with Roger Corman, Amirpour explains how "all the characters in the story are isolated and grappling with something that keeps them away from other people and themselves and from knowing what they want and from figuring out how to get it."[28] She often notes that she finds the characters from a personal place within herself. " Then, just as far as the storytelling, I wanted to do a f**king psychedelic Western. I like outcasts, I'm always drawn to the people that don't neatly fit into the conventional shit that's all around, the system. But, for what I'm writing right now, once again it's all about this sh*t that I'm personally trying to figure out."[29]

Another signature characteristic of Amirpour's film-making is her embrace of the political. Although she approaches any feminist reading of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night with a level of reserve,[30] Amirpour hopes her audience will appreciate the film's representation of a drag-wearing, silent character named Rockabilly who she describes as gay and Bitch Media calls genderqueer.[15] Amirpour says, "If there's one political thing [in the movie], it's not the chador, it's Rockabilly, because it's not OK to be gay in Iran."[10] When confronted with the question of feminism, she explains that her debut film "can be feminist if that's what people think,"[10] while still prompting her critics and audience to consider her individuality as an artist separate from her womanhood. Amirpour quips, "I wonder if when Tarantino made Kill Bill, did people say he was being a feminist? It's weird. I wonder if like, 'Oh a female and so she's battling misogyny.'”[30]

In Bad Batch, Amirpour ends up claiming a popular political interpretation of her work that moves beyond her original intention. She created the film in 2015[31] with the vision of depicting society's outcasts and later donned the anti-Trump message ascribed to it.

Amirpour's films often value images and framing over dialogue. When questioned about the sparse dialogue in her films she was quoted saying, "For me, it's interesting that people take the lack of dialogue as there being no story. It makes people uncomfortable, which I understand."[32] She finds inspiration from the various film directors; David Lynch, Francis Ford Coppola, and Sergio Leone.

Short films[edit]

Amirpour has written, produced and directed a number of short films before her directorial debut with A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Among them was a 2011 short, of the same name, which won a "Best Short Film" award at the 2012 Noor Iranian Film Festival and features Nazanin Boniadi in the role played by Sheila Vand in the feature, as well as Marshall Manesh and Dominic Rains from the feature film version.

Among these short films is also, A Little Suicide (2012), which received nominations for Best Short Film from the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the Oldenburg Film Festival and the Zlin International Film Festival for Children and Youth, as well as Pashmaloo (2011), also starring Sheila Vand from the feature film version of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and screened at Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival) in 2011, Ketab (2010), which also stars Sheila Vand, as well as Marshall Manesh from A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, True Love (2010), which won an Audience Award for Best International Short from the Milano International Film Festival Awards, You (2009), a music video featuring San Francisco rock duo Juanita and the Rabbit, and Six and a Half (2009).

Amirpour has written the short films I Feel Stupid (2012) (directed by Milena Pastreich), and part of the story for the feature film The Garlock Incident (2012), in which she also stars.

In January 2018, Amirpour released a short film for fashion house Kenzo, in which she collaborated with indie musicians and actors Karen O, Michael Kiwanuka, Alex Zhang Hungtai and Kiko Mizuhara. Karen O and Kiwanuka created the soundtrack while Zhang and Mizuhara star in the film.


In July 2016, it was announced Amirpour would direct an episode of the documentary series Breakthrough for National Geographic Channel.[33]

In April 2019, Amirpour directed "A Traveler," an Alaska-set episode of Jordan Peele's Twilight Zone. The episode stars Steven Yeun, Marika Sila and Greg Kinnear and was written by X-Files veteran Glen Morgan.



Year Film Director Writer Actor Role
2012 The Garlock Incident Yes Yes Lily
2014 A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night Yes Yes Yes Skeleton Partygirl
2016 The Bad Batch Yes Yes
TBA Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon Yes Yes
TBA Cliffhanger[34] Yes Yes


Year Show Episode(s)
2017 Breakthrough "Curing Cancer"
2018 Legion "Chapter 10"
2018 Castle Rock "Past Perfect"
2019–2020 The Twilight Zone "A Traveler", "Ovation"
2020 Briarpatch "Pilot"

Short films[edit]

Year Film
2009 Six and a Half[35]
2010 True Love
2010 Ketab
2011 Pashmaloo
2011 A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
2012 A Little Suicide
2017 Yo! My Saint (for Kenzo)
2020 Ride It Out (Homemade Episode 17)[36][circular reference]

Music videos[edit]

Year Song Musician
2009 "You"[37] Juanita and the Rabbit


  1. ^ Watercutter, Angela (2014-02-05). "Meet the Woman Who Directed the World's Only Iranian Vampire Western". Retrieved 2020-04-01.
  2. ^ Talking to the Star and Director of 'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night' - VICE Meets
  3. ^ Festival, Noor Iranian Film. "2012 Winners - Noor Iranian Film Festival". Archived from the original on 2019-05-30. Retrieved 2016-08-16.
  4. ^ Rizov, Vadim. "Ana Lily Amirpour | Filmmaker Magazine". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 2018-01-05.
  5. ^ "The Vampire Western Noir Set in Iran and Filmed Near Bakersfield - Los Angeles Magazine". Los Angeles Magazine. 2014-11-21. Retrieved 2018-01-06.
  6. ^ "Director Ana Lily Amirpour's Guide To Filmmaking And "Back to the Future" Approach to Creativity". Fast Company. 2014-11-21. Retrieved 2018-01-05.
  7. ^ Id.
  8. ^ "We Like Vampires Because We Hate Death". The New Republic. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  9. ^ Sherlock, Ben (2010-01-10). "Doctor Strange 2: 10 Directors Who Could Replace Scott Derrickson". Retrieved 2020-04-01.
  10. ^ a b c Watercutter, Angela (2014-02-05). "Meet the Woman Who Directed the World's Only Iranian Vampire Western". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2020-02-27.
  11. ^ Rizov, Vadim. "Ana Lily Amirpour | Filmmaker Magazine". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 2018-01-06.
  12. ^ Beer, Jeff. (September 3, 2014) "Take A Look Inside the Headquarters of Vice". Fast Company. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  13. ^ Scott, A.O. and Dargis, Manohla. (March 18, 2014) "Pushing Buttons and Boundaries on Movie Screens: New Directors/New Films Opens With Bold Strokes". New York Times. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  14. ^ Kang, Inkoo. (July 21, 2014) "Half of Filmmaker's 25 New Faces Are Women". Indiewire. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  15. ^ a b c "The Vampire Vigilante". Bitch Media. Retrieved 2020-02-27.
  16. ^ Eidelstein, Eric (2014-11-20). "Ana Lily Amirpour Is the Raddest Filmmaker Working Right Now". IndieWire. Retrieved 2018-01-05.
  17. ^ Ana Lily Amirpour Working On Cannibal Love Story The Bad Batch
  18. ^ "Exclusive: Ana Lily Amirpour Talks A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and What's Next - Dread Central". Retrieved 2018-01-05.
  19. ^ “Game of Thrones” Star Joins ‘The Bad Batch’
  20. ^ Cannibal Flick The Bad Batch Eats Up Jim Carrey and Keanu Reeves
  21. ^ "Venice Film Festival: Golden Lion To 'The Woman Who Left'; Tom Ford's 'Nocturnal Animals', Emma Stone Take Major Prizes – Full List". Deadline. 11 September 2016. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
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  26. ^ Eidelstein, Eric (2014-11-20). "Ana Lily Amirpour Is the Raddest Filmmaker Working Right Now". IndieWire. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  27. ^ "In Celebration of Badass Auteur Ana Lily Amirpour". Film School Rejects. 2017-02-21. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  28. ^ Hammer Museum. "A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night Q&A with Ana Lily Amirpour & Roger Corman." YouTube, digital presentation from The Billy and Audrey L. Wilder Foundation, 20 Jan. 2015,
  29. ^ "Fantastic Fest 2016 Interview: Writer/Director Ana Lily Amirpour on Creating Her Psychedelic Western THE BAD BATCH - Daily Dead". Daily Dead. 2016-10-04. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  30. ^ a b "Ana Lily Amirpour on "accidental feminism" & the versatility of vampires". SciFiNow. Retrieved 2020-02-27.
  31. ^ Cooper, Julia. "Ana Lily Amirpour's body politic: Assumptions about beauty and strength are tested in The Bad Batch, a dystopian rom-com about cannibals". The Globe and Mail – via ProQuest.
  32. ^ "Fantastic Fest 2016 Interview: Writer/Director Ana Lily Amirpour on Creating Her Psychedelic Western THE BAD BATCH - Daily Dead". Daily Dead. 2016-10-04. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  33. ^ "National Geographic Channel Greenlights Second Season of Critically Acclaimed Series BREAKTHROUGH". Business Wire. July 25, 2016. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
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