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Meet Ana Lily Amirpour, director of the year's best Iranian vampire romance - Metro US

Meet Ana Lily Amirpour, director of the year’s best Iranian vampire romance

Ana Lily Amirpour
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Filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour is of Iranian descent, was born in England and was raised in Miami and California. All of this comes into play in her first feature, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” a vampire Western romance set in a fictional Iranian ghost town but filmed in Taft, California. Amirpour, wearing a “Back to the Future” text shirt, tells us about turning a desert town into Iran, skateboarding in a chador and her love for Lionel Ritchie.

The first image that came to her: “The first thing was the chador. I put it on and I felt like a creature, I felt like a badass — a superhero, really. I thought this had to be about an Iranian vampire, and she has this brilliant disguise. It was so immediate and direct. And I wanted to ride a skateboard wearing it. The fabric of those chadors is this very specific weighted, satin-y silk. It moves and catches the air in a really elegant way. I just wanted to feel the wind pass through it. It feels as glorious as it looks.”

Why she made it about Iran: “It’s as Iranian and as American as I am. It’s a mix of things. It’s an Iranian fairy tale about loneliness and wanting a connection in a really bleak place. It’s who I am. I feel the film is a very accurate representation of my cultural experience.”

On Taft, about two hours northwest of L.A.: “It’s in another decade — not a close one either. It’s in another decade and another dimension. But there’s more of that than there is of [cities]. We’re the ones running around, but there’s more of them than of us.”

Turning this small town into Iran: “It’s extremely economically depressed. On the little, tiny main street, a lot of places are closed down and boarded up. There’s hardly any signage. There wasn’t much to replace. It was like a blank canvas.”

The people of Taft: “By the time I was shooting the film I literally knew everyone in that town. In a small town, if you take the time and really become friendly with everyone, it opens all these doors. We were calling people in the middle of the night to block off streets. It’s a really empty, quiet town; it’s not going to disrupt anyone, because no one’s there anyway. But you still have to do it. And they were into it. They loved having us there. Making a film for me is like a ticket to experience something in the world.”

Having to talk — for almost a year now — about the same film:“It’s a weird thing talking about a film. I’ve had to think about these things [while doing press], because people seem to want some kind of an explanation for everything. I’m trying to engage with why certain questions are asked.”

Why we grill filmmakers about their work more than musicians about songs:“Do you like the song ‘Hello’? It’s a great song. But if I was going to meet Lionel Ritchie, I wouldn’t say, ‘Mr. Ritchie, who did you write that song about?’ I wouldn’t need any information from Lionel Ritchie to have the experience I have with the song, which for me has lasted for decades and is unfazed by time or anything. I just wonder why it’s not the same thing with a film. In the end what the film is there for is for each person to see something of themselves in it, rather than something about me. The questions people ask have more to do with the people asking them than my answers.”

On the film’s slow pace, which has been compared to other glacial filmmakers:“Bela Tarr, Fassbinder and Tarkovsky were three people brought up to me when I was in rough cuts. And I haven’t seen any of their films — except for ‘Solaris.’ Jarmusch, everyone brings up, who I’m not a big fan of. There was just a certain pace, a feeling of things. It was also about restraints. There wasn’t a lot of time to shoot insert shots. I’d rather spend all of my time making a master shot that I really engaged with.”

That time she half-joked that Jennifer Lawrence should star in her next film, “The Bad Batch,” which is a “cannibal love story” in color and in English:“I love her. She’s magnificent. But I’m not actually into the movie star thing. I’m going to make the next Jennifer Lawrence — how about that?”

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter@mattprigge

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