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Ana Lily Amirpour has two feature films under her belt and a skyrocketing career that will, undoubtedly, carry her name in Hollywood for years to come. The 36-year old American filmmaker, writer, and producer rose to sudden fame back in 2014 with her self-described “Iranian Vampire Spaghetti Western” titled A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. When it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, it was met with universal acclaim and ultimately became a modern cult classic. Shot in black and white in the imaginary ghost town “Bad City,”  A Girl Walks Home began as a short that went on to win Best Short Film at the 2012 Noor Iranian Film Festival.

Born in England, but raised between California and Florida, Amirpour became passionate about cinema at a very young age. Her first film was a slasher flick that she shot during a slumber party when she was only twelve. She went on to study biology at UC Santa Barbara. However, within a year, she dropped out and moved to Colorado to live in the woods, until her parents allowed her to follow a more creative path, letting her explore her passion for filmmaking. She attended San Francisco University as an art major and then graduated from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

Much like any other newcomer, Amirpour’s cinematic style has been linked to bigger, older (and male) directors like David Lynch, Jim Jarmusch and George Miller. Amirpour’s own collection of graphic tees featuring her favorite directors —that she often wears to panels, interviews and premieres—-as well as her constant references to cinema, make her knowledge and skill even more evident. Both A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and her latest cannibal-dystopian movie The Bad Batch (coming out June 23rd) have a distinct and unique essence that is entirely singular to Amirpour’s vision and relation to the world. A Girl Walks Home finds elements of the Iranian New Wave juxtaposed with old-school vampire film tropes that find their way into an exceptional debut feature. Entirely spoken in Farsi, the film follows a riveting Sheila Vand as “the Girl,” the film’s anti-hero, who rides on her skateboard through the spectral streets of a lawless and timeless Iranian town. As she wanders, she selects and kills her victims until she meets one that proves to be more sensitive than the rest. The art house project was mostly crowdfunded, with $57,000 reached on Indiegogo. Amirpour would constantly release short snippets of the vampire tale in order to keep people’s interest. This tactic proved to be a smart move since A Girl Walks Home opened with a $600k-plus box office after its successful premiere at Sundance, an impressive feat for a first timer’s non-English indie.

While A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (above) is set in a dark and chilly wasteland, Amirpour’s highly anticipated second feature, The Bad Batch, takes the wasteland premise, bringing it to a hot and desolate desert at the edge of the world. With a $6 million budget and a more known cast comprised of Jim Carrey, Keanu Reeves, Jason Momoa, Diego Luna, Giovanni Ribisi and model-turned-actress Suki Waterhouse in the leading role, The Bad Batch has been described by its director as a mix between Miller’s Mad Max (the OG, she clarifies) and Dirty Dancing. The film takes place in a not-so-distant future where society’s rejects are dropped off at the border and left to their own devices. Our protagonist, Arlen, is left in West Texas, also known as “Not America,” in the film. With a jug of water and a hamburger, she is told to reach Comfort, the ironically named town where all of society’s “bad batches,” are exiled and left to fend for themselves. It doesn’t take long for Arlen, who is walking through the barren desert on her own, to be hunted down by a group of cannibals who proceed to eat her left arm and part of her lower leg before she escapes. The rest of the film focuses on Arden as the badass that she’s meant to be, in her pursuit of revenge. It also depicts a community that still cares for one another, despite being forgotten by the rest of the world.

Amirpour spent a lot of time with L.A.’s Skid Row community while writing the film. She describes The Bad Batch not as a post-apocalyptic story, but rather as a not-so-far-fetched conclusion of the government’s quest to drive out and sweep away society’s poorest and most outcast communities. This is the bizarre and eccentric world that Amirpour has us delve into while watching The Bad Batch, where there is always more than meets the eye. Extreme violence is juxtaposed with moments of thoughtfulness and tenderness: Amirpour’s camera and story find beauty in desperate scenarios.

Growing up, Amirpour was drawn to action movies. And the hearing impairment she was born with (retaining 70 percent of this sense) definitely proved to be a positive influence on her work, as she approached her projects like the action movies she grew up loving, in a way that you can follow the story through image rather than dialogue. Both A Girl Walks Home and The Bad Batch are visually striking and full of intertextual references and clear influences. However, that should not be confused with a lack of creativity, as Amirpour brings a distinctly unique look and approach to all of her projects. Like many female directors today, Amirpour wants to stop focusing on the term “woman director” and start shifting the discussion to the work rather than the person’s gender behind it. Whether or not she wants to be considered a feminist filmmaker, it is unavoidable to see and experience the sheer strength, power, resistance and desire her female protagonists bring to the screen. We have no doubt that she will continue to grace our screens with more female badass role models we can engage with and look up to.

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