"I fly my freak flag proud and clear and anyone else who gets on my ship is gonna get weird." - Ana Lily
Ana Lily Amirpour, the director of the acclaimed film A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, has been making movies since childhood. She makes it abundantly clear that movies and music are extremely important to her, surrounding herself with each as she spoke to the sold out crowd inside the Marchesa Hall and Theater in Austin, Texas. I became aware a large number of attendees had not seen the film yet, or know much about the director and her background. They were in for a rare treat I thought from this no nonsense, practical yet progressive individual.
"I do what I wanna do, I have been since I was out my mother's vagina." -Ana Lily
During the Q & A at the Austin Film Society, following a screening of her debut feature, Ana Lily fielded questions from both the audience and host for the evening. She shared that she was born in England yet moved to the US as a young adult, which provided her the opportunity to indulge in all things American. The same privileges would probably not have been bestowed upon her in Iran, which is where her family hails from. Strong traditions and values remained with Ana Lily maintaining a strong command of her native language. Minus of course having to ask her mother to translate "pimp" into Farsi. Ana Lily had to explain to her reserved mother that a character in her film, a drug dealing pimp name Saeed, was going to have this tattooed on the side of his head. Her mother had to inform her daughter that there was in fact, no direct translation for the word "pimp". Bummer. So "Pussy Pusher/Puller" it is! While writing the script for A Girl Walks....she actually has two separate drafts. One in English and the other Farsi, which she explained was sometimes quite difficult. All revisions, rewrites, additions, you name it, had to go on two different scripts.
Sensing the anticipation from the audience perhaps, there was not much of an intro. The director simply introducing herself and thanking everyone who was in attendance. The movie goers were quickly immersed in the story unfolding upon the screen. Since I had previously seen the film several times, I was keen on tuning in to other people's discussions regarding the film. The gentlemen behind me could have possibly been a film student, he kept whispering to his friend how amazing this scene was and how impressive that shot was. I couldn't help but grin, it's a lovely thing to witness. A person genuinely in awe of a film and it's creative and technical merits, experiencing it for the first time. I was a bit jealous these people got to enjoy it on the big screen for their initial viewing.
As the end credits began to roll and the lights returned, a loud round of applause accompanied by whistles of approval filled the theater. Ana Lily came enthusiastically to the stage, Snapchatting herself gleefully approaching. I have watched numerous interviews with with herself and the cast, as well as behind the scenes footage which has led to this conclusion of mine........Amirpour is a badass bitch.
As her first feature film, A Girl Walks.... was not an easy sell. You may have heard it be described as a B & W, Iranian, Vampire, Spaghetti Western, love story. It's completely ambiguous with the time and place the story takes place in the world. A wonderful mesh of classic and contemporary presented with style, technique and confidence.
As Ana Lily and the host for evening get comfortable upon stage, I notice Amirpour is all smiles. She briefly discussed her upbringing, describing herself as a 'human stew' with Iranian roots but American made ( she often sports random articles of clothing displaying proudly the American flag ). With being surrounded by American culture in her formidable years, a passion for film began to take shape ( she loves Back To The Future, interesting side note ). She grew to admire the works of David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky among others. Ana Lily and myself share an affinity for the beautiful mindf#$%s the Lynch family, David and daughter Jennifer, can weave. I know Mr. Lynch has been known to advise filmmakers to stay true to themselves and their idea of how the story needs to be told. I believe Amirpour took heed to this bit of sound advice, never really compromising on a thing for A Girl Walks.... She was so passionate about her vision, Executive Producer Elijah Wood confidently backed her decision making, including the battle to keep the movie in B & W.
The film was shot in a mere 24 days in California, debunking the common misconception that is was filmed overseas. Amirpour revealed that she was more than happy with the location of the production, not wishing it was anywhere else but in Taft. Then somehow, the topic of that lil town driven by the oil fields, partying, and recreational use of LSD presented itself. I will admit, my ears perked up a little on hearing where this was going. The host playfully asks Ana Lily about her psychedelic encounters that he may or may not have heard she has enjoyed the effects of such substances. Ana Lily giggles and looks down, probably choosing her next few sentences carefully. In this moment the host turns to the audience and asks, with a show of hands, who has partook in LSD, DMT, and finally Mushrooms ( the fungus is among us! ). Either my fellow audience members were lying or this screening just simply had a large number of s-q-u-a-r-e-s in attendance. Focus is shifted back to Amirpour and she acknowledges that yes, she enjoys the intense, positive effects one can experience. Describing it as being in a immense valley and only having knowledge of what is within this valley. LSD lets you see beyond. Lifts you up out of the valley and gives you the ability to see so much more. Now you can see the valley AND beyond the mountains. It's a fantastic analogy, and one I assume most can ascertain from that eloquent rendering of a hallucinogenic trip what it can possibly be like ( ok kids, psychedelic drugs aren't for everyone and I'm not condoning the use of ). Ana Lily shared that she has previously benefitted artistically from the level of awareness obtained through psychedelics, finding some solace, during the production of her upcoming film, The Bad Batch.
"I got the guy from Point Break in my movie, so yeah I'm stoked!" - Ana Lily
This is true, Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey will star in her second feature The Bad Batch, which she described as a 'cannibal love story set in Texas.' Most excellent, I'm sold! With all this in mind a solid question was raised. Was production on the new project greatly different from A Girl Walks....? With A-List celebs, larger budget, larger production period, was there an opinion she formed about either big budget or indie filmmaking. And with her next reply, I believe this is when my fandom was permanently solidified. She paused for a moment, reflecting back, then quietly and slowly spoke into the microphone,
"It's a whole new cunt of a birth. It's like love, it was a cunt the first time around and it'll be a cunt the second time around. It's just a different type of cunt." - Ana Lily
Myself and quite a few others erupted in laughter after this statement. The older gentlemen next to me did not though. She was extremely insightful regarding set life, gaining the cast and crews respect and willingness to follow her Freak Flag waving self. "It takes a long time to make a film, to keep my boner. I don't wanna fake it........( whispers into mic ) I wanna f#$k.....I wanna cum, I want everyone to cum." She is smiling as she speaks these words, explaining it's a positive type of mindf#$k, to collaborate and develop a synergy among the crew, a degree of intimacy if you will. Ana Lily continues, "I want a boner, I'm not going to pretend I have one if I don't love the s#%t out of whatever world I'm conjuring every second. It's no good." Amirpour followed this formula for A Girl Walks....including some of her own personal favorite bands ( Radio Tehran, White Lies, Federale ) to create one hell a of soundtrack. The vinyl is mind blowingly beautiful, a piece of art in it's own right. Actually the packaging of both the vinyl and blu ray are phenomenal, very eye pleasing and just absolutely follows suit with the film. Another personal addition was the acquiring of the skateboard. Ana Lily loves skateboarding and has done so since she was young. In any scene where The Girl is cruising on her board, that is actually Amirpour.
To promote bonding and general film awareness, she had a select few film titles they would all watch together. Rumblefish, Wild at Heart, and Once Upon A Time In The West were a few that were mentioned. Music, is a very sacred instrument to Ana Lily. To assist the actors to further understand or to grasp an added layer to their character, she would assign 'listening assignments'. For example the drug dealing pimp, Saeed. He was required to jam out to a ton of EDM such as House, Trance, perhaps some Drum n Bass.
"Music is everything to me." -Ana Lily
This scene is such a fantastic example of how all of her creative decisions such as the music, the tone, the direction ( and flawless execution from her two leads ) and the design all met forming this unforgettable film. The kinetic energy, or as Ana Lily likes to refer to it, 'the juice'. All the energy and charge between two people. The prolonged anticipation. A Tantric like exercise she offered.
"All the juice is in the space between us, the chemistry , the space........it becomes a third character in the scene." - Ana Lily
I'm eager to see what contributions to cinema she will develop in the future. She already appears so confident with a clear and concise story telling method, that's character heavy paired with breathtaking cinematography ( Lyle Vincent ). I thoroughly enjoy her demeanor and personality. She's real and tries to keep it like such. She has worked hard to be where she is currently and will continue to do so, ensuring her continued movies to create. Her potential to be a legendary filmmaker is unprecedented, and her creative well, is relatively newly tapped.
As the audience was filing out, I tracked her down outside. A group of fans patiently waiting their turn for photos or autographs, as she answered questions as they came. Ana Lily was very considerate and seemed to enjoy the interaction with movie goers. Because first and foremost, Amirpour is a true movie fan, a lover of film and she is here to share her unique vision with all of the world.