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An Interview with Director Ana Lily Amirpour

agwha1An Interview With Director Ana Lily Amirpour
Q) Where did you get the idea to make an Iranian Vampire Western?

A) I put on a chador while we were making a short film called Ketab [English title ‘Book’] (2010) that Shelia Vand was in. When I put it on, I felt like a bat and it made me want to skateboard. It was supernatural. The chador was a
costume for one of the extras on the set during the film, and after putting it on, looking in the mirror I immediately thought I look like an Iranian vampire. Why has no one thought of this before?

Q) The film is in Farsi but shot in America? Is Bad City supposed to be a double for Iran? Is it the real world? There are piles of dead bodies and stuff. Do you think it’s present day life? Is it not a metaphor?

A) In that way everything is a metaphor. Cinderella is a metaphor for present day life. For me a film has nothing to do with the real world. It’s real in the way that a dream is real. My dreams make perfect sense to me. I don’t have any trouble with the things in my dreams, but they are very weird, it’s weird shit and it doesn’t have to make sense or anything. It doesn’t have loyalty to anything but the dream. The dream only has to be consistent to the dream or the dreamer.
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Q) So is this film about your dream self?

A) In the end I think it’s like a Fincher movie, where you do like 97 takes and then you’ve been stripped down to what is left and you’re really primal in your feeling and interaction. It’s like you don’t want to make films to understand this or that or whatever. I just make films to understand myself, who I am, what I feel, and what I think.

 

Q) Can you tell me about the characters in the film, the girl, the junkie, the pimp. Where did you come up with them?

A) I know the characters. The Pimp. The Junkie. Like I know what they live before the movie and the movie is clearly a manipulation because it’s showing something in a certain way on some level. You’re going to see what you want to see based on who you are, and that is what’s exciting actually. Film is like a mirror and you end seeing yourself in the movie.

Q) The soundtrack, Radio Tehran, Federale is excellent? How did that come together, are they the bands that you like?

A) The soundtrack is musically anything. I myself listen to a lot of very specific house music. Electronic music is going through a really cool renaissance right now. I’m into Bob Moses and Black Light Smoke. So when I make a
film it’s really cool because it’s kind of like an obsession, or a character, other kinds of music. I need to find the sound that the film wants, and not what I listen to, like the Spaghetti Western music that is in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, that is a band called Federale, a really cool band from Portland. I was at a show for The Brian Jonestown Massacre and afterwards I met the bass guitarist Collin Hegna and I told him that I was making an Iranian vampire film and it’s really dark, kind of Lynchian and Rumble Fish and he said I have this side project. So I listened to the music and it had that Spaghetti Western feel and I thought this is the sound of the film and so his music became the spine of the soundtrack. Then for each character I looked for music that would suit them, like with Arash it was Radio Tehran, which has a really good Iranian vintage feel, it feels like the Pixies or Cure if they had been Iranian.
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Q) Do you see this film as being American or Iranian?

A) The film is an Iranian fairytale about an Iranian world and characters. It’s also like a John Hughes movie where the weirdo freak is trying to change to fit in and be like other people in the movie and then by the end of the movie they learn the lesson to be themselves and true to the people that they know. I grew up on American pop culture. You know Sergio Leone is an Italian guy making American Westerns. In movies you don’t really have to have any rules, whatever you feel like you can do. Even David Lynch, Mulholland Drive is a movie about Los Angeles, but it’s an L.A of his mind. It’s something else. It’s the dream and the dreamer dreaming the dream inside the dream.

Q) So what’s your own background, American, Iranian, both?

A) I was born in England, in Margate, Kent. I’m not Iranian from Iran, but I’m not claiming to be. If you took a DNA sample of me, I’m sure a rabbit would just come out. We moved out of Margate when I was a baby and then we moved to Miami, not the beach, that part of Miami that is the giant asshole, Miami was so horrible. I was a kid there. I got my period in Bakersfield, California. I think where you grew up is where you had puberty and that
for me was in California. Then I went to Santa Barbara, then Colorado, then San Francisco, now in L.A. I spent five months in Berlin.

Q)You shot the film in Taft, is that a place you know well?

A) So I went to school in Bakersfield and our high school football team would play in different towns. Taft was a neighbouring town and was interesting because it has some of the highest density oil in California. There are so
many of these prehistoric oil rig things. The air smells different. But it’s really economically depressed with all these businesses that are closed. So it didn’t take much to make it seem Iranian.
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Q) When did you meet Shelia Vand?

A) We met in 2009, we worked together on short films. Although I did one that was the girl vampire called A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, and she couldn’t do it as she was on Broadway at the time. But she was always the
vampire in my mind. The character in the film is old and young at the same time and I feel that way about Shelia. So much of how she acts is in the way that she moves, she has this physicality, and then I’m also so infatuated by her eyes. So I wrote this part thinking about her.

Q)When did you first get into vampires?

A) It was reading Ann Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and Stephen King, which I read, probably when I was way too young and also looking at cat’s and vampires. I definitely went through a horror phase. A vampire is a lonely, alienated creature. It’s a disguise for someone with something bad to hide.

Q) You have since written a comic book based on the characters?

A) When writing the script, I wrote down the back story to all the characters. For the Girl, this went back around 200 years, back when she was human to how she became a vampire and how she got to Bad City. One of the executive producers on the film told me he was starting a company publishing comic books. I write the scripts and Michael DeWeese draws the illustrations. I really love doing it, especially as I don’t have to work out the practicalities of how to film what I dream up in my mind.
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Q) The film has seen you compared with Jim Jarmusch, especially as his latest films Only Lovers Left Alive was also about vampires?

A) Everyone is saying it. It’s like literally unavoidable in every conversation. I’m not actually a Jarmusch fan. I’ve seen his films. I saw his vampire film. I think we must have been shooting our films at the same time. I was in postproduction, and I saw the film with Shelia Vand, my vampire. We were sitting watching the film together and then we both looked at each other in the scene with the music and they fall on the bed and stuff, like wow, we
clearly huffing on the same vampire fumes.

Q) Can you tell me about your new film that is currently in production?

A) It’s called The Bad Batch and it’s a post-apocalyptic desert cannibal love story.

Q) So you’re dealing with the undead again?

A) Oh! No, actually no one is dead, they keep you alive and kill you slowly.

You can the UKHS review of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night here – http://www.ukhorrorscene.com/a-girl-walks-home-alone-at-night-2014-review/

A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT is released in cinemas on May 22nd

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) Review

agwha1A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) Review

Writer & Director: Ana Lily Amirpour

Cast: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marno, Dominic Rains

Running Time: 101 minutes

UK Cinema Release date: 22 May 2015

This small town tale of other worldliness will totally engulf you.

Ana Lily Amirpour’s first feature is shot entirely in black and white and exudes a unique sense of style and atmosphere. The girl in the film’s title refers to a skateboarding Iranian vampire who stalks the streets of Bad City by night. If that’s not a great opening gambit, then I don’t know what is.  Bad City lives up to its name, a town of drug dealers, prostitutes and general decay.  A handsome young man named Arash lives with his drug addicted father and is trying to rise above the filth of Bad City. However, drug dealer and pimp, Saeed, does not intend to make that easy for him. In lieu of his father’s drug payments, Saeed takes Arash’s prized car, sparking a chain of events that ultimately draws Arash and the girl towards one another.

An Iranian film, shot in America, part western, part horror, part surrealist, it mixes numerous genres and influences to create its own fantasy world. Although this may sound like it shouldn’t work, it blatantly defies your expectations. The picture seamlessly comes together in a strong, inventive and coherent film that makes your lips curl and your heart bleed. The story is well crafted and with minimal dialogue, the characters instantly resonate in your consciousness. There is a simplicity that propels the story forward and allows you to invest in the world you are presented with.

agwha2Even when Arash and the girl meet, this does not become a normal love story. Things aren’t that simple, especially when the girl in question has blood sucking tendencies. After seeing Saeed mistreating Atti (the local prostitute), the girl seductively claims her next victim. There is some sense of morality, in that the girl appears to kill only those who really, aren’t particularly nice people. Given the film’s brooding and dark nature, there is still a sense of lightness sprinkled throughout, creating characters to relish and moments to knowingly smile along to.

Director Amirpour’s love and knowledge of music is at the core of the film, as she powerfully combines her images and music to create memorable and intriguing moments. At times it will feel as if you are observing a slow moving photograph, allowing you the opportunity to pause and drink in every sip of the frame. The vision of the girl; her chador hanging down, standing on a skateboard and pushing herself along a wall, wedged itself in my mind.

Similarly, a scene of the girl and Arash together in her apartment, music thumping between them, draws you totally in to their intimate world. It will have you holding your breath to see what will happen next. With a small, core cast, each actor delivers a performance that fits the tone of the story perfectly. Sheila Vand plays the girl to haunting effect. She is sorrowful, alluring and distant all at once. Mozhan Marno (as prostitute Atti) creates a vision of sadness and hope against the dark backdrop of her life. It would be unfair to pick out any one actor over another, as each one etches themselves on your memory in their own way.

agwha3The film’s style, humour and bleakness hit all the right notes and create a feeling of disenchanted, trapped youth; characters old before their time. Ana Lily Amirpour is a unique voice and she tells a story that feels personal, fantastical and yet totally relatable. The girl who walks home alone at night, is a dark vision of a heightened reality and a fairy tale of sorts, just not one you will be telling your kids at bedtime.

8.5 out of 10

Iranian Vampire Film ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’ – Gets UK Cinema Release May 22nd

girlA GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT

Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour

IN UK CINEMAS MAY 22

Strange things are afoot in Bad City. The Iranian ghost town, home to prostitutes, junkie, pimps and other sordid souls, is a place that reeks of death and hopelessness, where a lonely vampire is stalking the towns most unsavoury inhabitants. But when boy meets girl, an unusual love story begins to blossom…blood red.

GIRL22-p19kd4iae5ksnknro6p2gimj1The first Iranian Vampire Western, Ana Lily Amirpour’s début feature basks in the sheer pleasure of pulp. A joyful mash-up of genre, archetype and iconography, its prolific influences span spaghetti westerns, graphic novels, horror films, and the Iranian New Wave. Amped by a mix of Iranian rock, techno and Morricone inspired riffs, its airy, anamorphic, black-and-white aesthetic and artfully drawn-out scenes combine the simmering tension of Sergio Leone with the weird surrealism of David Lynch.

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 99 mins

‘An intoxicating blend of eerie horror and 80’s pop’ **** (Time Out)

‘Strange and wonderful’ (Danny Leigh, The Guardian)

‘Seductive and strange enough to stick in the memory like a fever dream’ **** (Empire)

‘The best vampire film ever made’ (Kaleem Aftab, The Independent)

‘Giddily inventive’ **** (Total Film)

‘A new vampire classic, one to treasure endlessly’ (The Playlist)

New UK Trailer