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Ana Lily Amirpour
Ana Lily Amirpour (cropped).jpg
Amirpour in 2014
Margate, Kent, England
Alma mater
  • Film director
  • screenwriter
Years active 2009–present

Ana Lily Amirpour (Persian: آنا لیلی امیرپور) is an Iranian-American film-maker, screenwriter 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," which made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014, 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.

Early life

Amirpour was born in Margate, England, and moved to Miami, Florida with her family when she was young. Her family then settled in Bakersfield, California, where she attended high school. 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, and then studied screenwriting at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television . She has been making films since she was 12 years old.

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."

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


Feature films

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

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" 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. 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". 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." In the wake of the film's release, Filmmaker named her to their 2014 list of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film.

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." 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.

The Bad Batch (2016)

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

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (2021)

Amirpour's third feature film is Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, starring Jun Jong-seo and 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 returns to the chaotic reality around her, making unexpected allies along the way." It was filmed in New Orleans in summer 2019 and was produced by John Lesher. It had its world premiere at the 78th Venice International Film Festival on September 5, 2021, and was released in the United States on September 30, 2022, by Saban Films.

Cliffhanger (TBA)

In May 2019, Amirpour announced that she would have directed a female-led reboot of the 1993 film Cliffhanger. Jason Momoa was a principal actor. But by May 2023, it was officially reported that the reboot will be redeveloped as a legacy-sequel instead. Ric Roman Waugh replaced Amirpour as director and Sylvester Stallone returned to reprise his role from the original, in addition to taking on a role as producer. The sequel will have a presence at Cannes, where distributing studios will be decided. No release date has been set.

Short films

Amirpour has written, produced and directed several 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.


Amirpour has written the short film 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.

In 2018, Amirpour directed episode two of the second season of Legion.

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. In 2020, she directed another show episode titled "Ovation".

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

Amirpour directed "The Outside", the 4th episode of the horror anthology streaming television series Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities, which aired on October 26, 2022.

Other works

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Comic Series)

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.

Style and Themes

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."

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." 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."

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.” 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," 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.'” 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." She often notes that she finds the characters from a personal place within herself. ....."

Another signature characteristic of Amirpour's film-making is her embrace of the political. ..... 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." 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 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.

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." 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.

Various film directors have had an impact on Amirpour's style: David Lynch, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Zemeckis, 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. Anne Rice was the major influence for A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night', and Bruce Lee remains one of her biggest artistic heroes (his book Striking Thoughts is one she continually returns to for inspiration). Films that she's found inspiring throughout her life and career include The NeverEnding Story', Back to the Future', Sin City', and Pulp Fiction.


Short films

  • Six and a Half (2009)
  • True Love (2010)
  • Ketab (2010)
  • Pashmaloo (2011)
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2011)
  • Yo! My Saint (for Kenzo) (2017)
  • Ride It Out (Homemade Episode 17) (2020)

Feature films

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"
Castle Rock "Past Perfect"
2019 The Twilight Zone "A Traveler"
2020 "Ovation"
Briarpatch "Pilot"
2022 Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities "The Outside"

Music videos

Year Song Musician
2009 "You" Juanita and the Rabbit
2022 "Suéltame" Christina Aguilera and Tini

Awards and nominations

Year Title Festival Category Result
2012 A Little ... (short) Edinburgh International Film Festival Best International Short Film Nominated
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (short) Noor Iranian Film Festival Best Short Film Won
2014-15 A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night Independent Spirit Awards Best First Feature Nominated
Someone to Watch Award Nominated
London Film Festival Best Film Nominated
Sundance Film Festival Audience Award Nominated
Sitges Film Festival Citizen Kane Award - Best Directorial Revelation Won
Carnet Jove Jury Award Won
Special Mention Won
Hawaii International Film Festival Special Mention Won
Halekulani Golden Orchid Award - Narrative Feature Nominated
Gotham Awards Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award Won
Audience Award Nominated
Deauville American Film Festival Revelations Prize Won
Grand Special Prize Nominated
2016 The Bad Batch Venice Film Festival Special Jury Prize Won
Golden Lion Nominated
2021 Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon Nominated

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Ana Lily Amirpour para niños

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