Ana Lily Amirpour

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Ana Lily Amirpour
Ana Lily Amirpour (cropped).jpg
Amirpour in 2014
Margate, Kent, England
Alma mater
  • Film director
  • screenwriter
Years active2009–present

Ana Lily Amirpour (Persian: آنا لیلی امیرپور) is a British-born American film director, screenwriter, producer and actress.[1] 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"[2] that made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014,[3] 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.[4]

Early life[edit]

Amirpour was born in Margate, England, and moved to Miami, Florida with her family when she was young.[5] Her family then settled in Bakersfield, California, where she attended high school.[6] She began studying biology at UC Santa Barbara, but dropped out after one year. Later she returned to school to study painting and sculpting, attending San Francisco State University for her undergraduate degree,[2] and then studied screenwriting at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television .[7] She has been making films since she was 12 years old.[8]

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."[9]

Amirpour suffers from 30% hearing loss which she correlates with her lack of dialogue in her films.[10] She writes all of her scripts in Las Vegas.[11]


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, described as "the first Iranian vampire spaghetti western" "with elements of film noir and the restraint of Iranian New Wave cinema"[12] 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.[13] 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".[14] 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."[15] In the wake of the film's release, Filmmaker named her to their 2014 list of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film.[16]

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."[17] 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.[17]

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."[18][19] She has also described it as "very violent" and "very romantic" and like "El Topo meets Dirty Dancing".[20] The film stars Jason Momoa,[21] Jim Carrey and Keanu Reeves.[22] It premiered at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival on September 6, 2016 and won the Special Jury prize.[23]

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (2021)[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."[24] It was filmed in New Orleans in summer 2019 and was produced by John Lesher. No release date has been set.[25]

Cliffhanger (TBA)[edit]

In May 2019, Amirpour announced that she will direct a female-led reboot of the 1993 film Cliffhanger. Jason Momoa has signed on to be a principal actor. No release date has been set.[26]

Please Give Me You (announced)[edit]

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. She puts particular emphasis on worldbuilding, and setting plays an important role in her films. In an interview with Matt Mullen from Interview Magazine, she explains, "I think locations are as important as a character in a story. The whole personality of the place. I’m into creating an immersive, transportive experience. And there are so many interesting places on Earth already."[27]

Music and score is of the utmost importance in her work. Her two released films both feature eclectic soundtracks that refuse to go unnoticed and play a major role in establishing character feelings and settings. "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."[28] All of these can be best seen in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, a film that is widely regarded as the "first Iranian vampire western."[29]

Inspiration from the eastern and western worlds are equally present in all her work, particularly influenced by Amirpour's experience as a first generation Iranian-American. Themes of outcasts, rebels, and "otherness" are a staple to her filmography to date, which she attributes to her personal history of feeling out of place. “I’m a brown woman immigrant, my family escaped the Iranian Revolution, I grew up on two continents, English wasn’t the first language in my home. I know what it is to be the ‘other’ very, very well.”[30] These themes usually revolve around central female characters who are outcasts in their own worlds and must find a way to break free from the molds they've been confined to by society. Yet when confronted with the question of feminism, she explains that her debut film "can be feminist if that's what people think,"[12] 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.'”[31] However, women are not the only source of outcasts in her films. 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."[32] She often notes that she finds the characters from a personal place within herself. "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 shit that I'm personally trying to figure out."[33]

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,[31] 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.[17] 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."[12] 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[34] with the vision of depicting society's outcasts and later donned the anti-Trump message ascribed to it. The film was also meant to be a critique of modern capitalism and consumerist ideology, as motifs of overindulgence and consumption took center stage, themes which were also present in her first feature.[35]

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."[36] Still, the prioritization of strong visual imagery remains effective for her. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night received two nominations for Best Cinematography at the Chlotrudis Awards and Independent Spirit Awards, and won the Dublin Film Critics Award for the same category.[37]

Various film directors have had an impact on Amirpour's style: David Lynch, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Zemeckis,[38] and Sergio Leone. In an interview with IU Cinema, she expresses that she also finds inspiration in all kinds of art: filmmakers, writers, photographers, and music, especially.[39] Anne Rice was the major influence for A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night[2], and Bruce Lee remains one of her biggest artistic heroes (his book Striking Thoughts is one she continually returns to for inspiration).[39] Films that she's found inspiring throughout her life and career include The NeverEnding Story[39], Back to the Future[7], Sin City[2], and Pulp Fiction.[40]

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; 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 stars Sheila Vand, and 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, entitled Yo! My Saint in which she collaborated with indie musicians and actors Karen O, Michael Kiwanuka, Alex Zhang Hungtai and Kiko Mizuhara. Karen O and Kiwanuka composed the film's song of the same name 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.[41]

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. She also directed another episode of the show one year later, entitled "Ovation."

Amirpour also directed the pilot episode of the crime-drama series Briarpatch, which aired in February 2020.

Other works[edit]

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Comic Series)[edit]

After the release of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Amirpour wrote an e-comic miniseries of the same name focusing on the backstory of The Girl and featuring illustrations by Michael DeWeese. The two issues, titled Death is the Answer and Who Am I, were published by RADCO in 2014.[42]



Year Title 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
2021 Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon Yes Yes


Year Title 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 Title
2009 Six and a Half[43]
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)[44][circular reference]

Music videos[edit]

Year Song Musician
2009 "You"[45] Juanita and the Rabbit
2022 "Suéltame"[46] Christina Aguilera and Tini

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Film Festival Category Result
2012 A Little Suicide (short) Edinburgh International Film Festival Best International Short Film Nominee
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (short) Noor Iranian Film Festival Best Short Film[4] Winner
2014-15 A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night Independent Spirit Awards Independent Spirit Award - Best First Feature Nominee
Someone To Watch Award Nominee
London Film Festival Best Film Nominee
Sundance Film Festival Audience Award Nominee
Stiges Film Festival Citizen Kane Award - Best Directorial Revelation Winner
Carnet Jove Jury Award Winner
Special Mention[47] Winner
Hawaii International Film Festival Special Mention[48] Winner
Halekulani Golden Orchid Award - Narrative Feature Nominee
Gotham Awards Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award[49] Winner
Audience Award Nominee
Deauville Film Festival Revelations Prize[50] Winner
Grand Special Prize Nominee
2016 The Bad Batch Venice Film Festival Special Jury Prize[23] Winner
Golden Lion Nominee
2021 Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Nominee


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  2. ^ a b c d Watercutter, Angela (2014-02-05). "Meet the Woman Who Directed the World's Only Iranian Vampire Western". Retrieved 2020-04-01.
  3. ^ Talking to the Star and Director of 'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night' - VICE Meets
  4. ^ a b Festival, Noor Iranian Film. "2012 Winners - Noor Iranian Film Festival". Archived from the original on 2019-05-30. Retrieved 2016-08-16.
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  16. ^ Kang, Inkoo. (July 21, 2014) "Half of Filmmaker's 25 New Faces Are Women". Indiewire. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
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  19. ^ Ana Lily Amirpour Working On Cannibal Love Story The Bad Batch
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  21. ^ “Game of Thrones” Star Joins ‘The Bad Batch’
  22. ^ Cannibal Flick The Bad Batch Eats Up Jim Carrey and Keanu Reeves
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  26. ^ "Hang on, Cannes! Neal Moritz's Female-Fronted 'Cliffhanger' Reboot Climbs with Rocket Science, CAA". 8 May 2019.
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  30. ^ Kohn, Eric (2017-06-23). "Ana Lily Amirpour Responds to Racism Charges — But Won't Apologize For Making You Uncomfortable". IndieWire. Retrieved 2021-12-04.
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  35. ^ Jackson, Kimberly (2020-01-30). "Dejects and Cannibals: Postmodern Abjection in Ana Lily Amirpour's The Bad Batch". Exchanges: The Interdisciplinary Research Journal. 7 (2): 134–152. doi:10.31273/eirj.v7i2.476. ISSN 2053-9665. S2CID 213252292.
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  38. ^ A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night Q&A with Ana Lily Amirpour & Roger Corman, retrieved 2021-12-04
  39. ^ a b c Ana Lily Amirpour: An IU Cinema Exclusive, retrieved 2021-12-04
  40. ^ Amirpour, Ana Lily. "Pulp Fiction Is Like Good Sex—It's Hard to Explain". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2021-12-04.
  41. ^ "National Geographic Channel Greenlights Second Season of Critically Acclaimed Series BREAKTHROUGH". Business Wire. July 25, 2016. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  42. ^ Amirpour, Ana Lily (2014). A girl walks home alone at night. Michael DeWeese, Pat Brosseau. Los Angeles, CA. ISBN 978-0-9915161-1-7. OCLC 905967116.
  43. ^ "{{ ($ && $ ? $[$root.lang].socialTitle : $root.seo.pageTitle | translate }}". Retrieved 2018-01-05.
  44. ^ "Homemade (TV series)".
  45. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Juanita and the Rabbit - "You" - OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO". YouTube.
  46. ^ Gómez, Shirley (July 22, 2022). "Christina Aguilera and Tini drop music video for sueltame". ¡Hola!. Retrieved July 24, 2022.
  47. ^ "FESTIVAL ARCHIVES - Sitges Film Festival - Festival Internacional de Cinema Fantàstic de Catalunya". Retrieved 2021-12-06.
  48. ^ "The Hawaii International Film Festival Presented by Halekulani Celebrates its 34th Edition". PRWeb. Retrieved 2021-12-06.
  49. ^ Team, The Deadline (2014-12-02). "Gotham Awards: 'Birdman' Named Best Feature; Julianne Moore & Michael Keaton Score Acting Wins (Complete Winners List)". Deadline. Retrieved 2021-12-06.
  50. ^ "Deauville Film Festival 2014". MUBI. Retrieved 2021-12-06.

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