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The Tehrangeles Series | Ana Lily Amirpour

Writer

Brownbook Staff

Photographer

Monica Nouwens

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What does the term Tehrangeles mean to you?
Well to me, it basically means Tehran and Los Angeles had a baby.

What brought you to LA? How long have you been living here?
I came here to study filmmaking at UCLA. It’s been six years since I moved here.

Is LA home for you now?
Yes, but I’d like to have three homes in equal parts – LA, New York and Berlin.

Your upcoming feature film ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ has been hailed as the ‘first Iranian Vampire Western’. How would you describe an Iranian Vampire Western?
I’d rather you see it and describe it to me. But if I were to explain it to you, I would say it’s like Sergio Leone and David Lynch had an Iranian rock ‘n’ roll baby, and then Nosferatu came and babysat for them. The end product would be both bad and alluring. But seriously, it’s the first Iranian vampire film that I know of. It’s shot in black and white; it has a crazy awesome soundtrack and an incredible cast.

Why are you so fascinated with making scary films?
It depends on your definition of ‘scary’. I’m fascinated by the unknown, which at times can be scary. A film is a safe way to explore the farthest reaches of your imagination, and I like the adventure. I grew up mesmerised by how American films could take you on an adventure.

You made your first film at the age of 12. Has your work evolved since that time?
Since I was 12? Well, I guess it’s all been downhill. I was pure instinct back then. Now I probably overthink things.

What advice would you give to your former 12-year old self?
I would have plucked my unibrow sooner and not have gotten a perm.

You’re also the frontwoman of an art-rock band. Tell me more about that.
Ten years ago, I was in a band called FLUT. I love music and always have, so I got a bass guitar and started to write songs. We toured for a few years and played a lot of shows all over America. It was a great way to see the country. But in the long run, that lifestyle is hard. So, I didn’t feel like doing it anymore and stopped. But really music is everything, and that’s why it’s such a huge aspect of my filmmaking.

You seem to have many strings to your bow – painting, sculpting, making films and directing music videos. Is there something that ties all of your work together?
I’m just trying to figure out how to be a human, whatever that means. Mostly, I guess it means curing loneliness, because you are the only one who knows your inner thoughts. That’s why I sit down and write a script. Making art is comforting because you create your own world and put those thoughts into something, and then you might find that someone else connects with it. And then you’re suddenly not so lonely for at least a brief moment.

How do you stay in tune with your Iranian roots?
I went back in 2000. My family members are all here in the US and some of them are in Europe, and we’re very close. But actually I think I’m more in tune with Iran than I’ve ever been because I just made an Iranian film! My Farsi has improved because of that.

Are there a lot of Iranian influences in your work?
Like I mentioned, I did go back 10 years ago. But honestly I don’t think that matters. I’m just an American and just an Iranian, which means I’m both and neither. I’m a mash-up, if you will. That’s why you get an Iranian Vampire Western. But this question is really at the heart of why making a film is so special. When you make a film it’s basically like creating your own country. You pick the citizens, make the rules, set the goals and priorities, and then you can do what you want within that space. It’s glorious. And once it’s out in the world it becomes a country anyone can visit.

What are the common misconceptions you find are associated with the Iranian community in LA?
That we call it Tehrangeles. And just because there’s a lot of us, that we’re a community.

This article appears in the issue41Buy Now