PRINT May 2014


Ana Lily Amirpour

Ana Lily Amirpour is a Los Angeles–based filmmaker. Her most recent feature, a black-and-white Iranian vampire western titled A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and opened New Directors/New Films in March at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which co-organizes the festival with the Film Society of Lincoln Center. She is currently working on her next film, The Bad Batch, a postapocalyptic cannibal love story.


    To make a film is “to work inside a dream,” David Lynch tells us in this volume of interviews. Lynchian characters look strange and talk strange and live inside the phantasmagoric worlds of his deepest, darkest brain caves. This is why a Lynch film is violently singular. There is no way to extract the man from the films he makes.


    The first time I saw Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er was in their viral 2010 video for “Zef Side,” with its saturated tones of South African ghettos, ’90s colors, Oakley glasses, and Ninja’s dick bouncing in slow motion in his Pink Floyd boxers. It’s interesting to hear people say that Die Antwoord is an “act.” Exactly what amount of artistic integrity allows a musician to be real? Ninja and Yo-Landi don’t yield to herd mentality or try to anticipate the whims of their audience. I think a lot of artists are a result of what they do, but these two are able todo what they are.

    *Still from Die Antwoord’s 2010 video _Zef Side_, directed by Sean Metelerkamp.* Still from Die Antwoord’s 2010 video Zef Side, directed by Sean Metelerkamp.

    There are plenty of reasons to hate Burning Man, and I did for years—but then I actually went. Burning Man is home to (among infinitely many other things) the most comfortable dance party on earth. (I say this because the DJs and the electronic music I love—deep house and minimal techno—are mostly heard at massive latter-day raves packed with teenagers on MDMA, where there’s no air or room to dance and you feel like you’re in a warehouse full of zombies.) But at Burning Man there is this roving bus created by the Robot Heart camp and it’s equipped with an incredible sound system. Where else can you see DJs like Lee Burridge, Seth Troxler, Art Department, Bob Moses, and Black Light Smoke as the sun rises over the desert—and with unlimited space to dance? The answer is nowhere.


    Full of quotes from Lee regarding martial arts and psychology but also the philosophy of art and life itself, this is a book I never stop reading. Making a film can be a tool for exploding your fears and mental blocks and the walls of your ego—for penetrating the depths of your own being. Obstacles in the path, Lee writes, are the path. That is everything, and not just for an artist but for every human being.


    This Bay Area artist draws hilarious illustrations with deadpan captions that have kept me laughing for more than a decade. I’m in love with the simple, funny ways he presents life and the weirdo human beings that we are.


    I saw this short film at the Hamburg International Short Film Festival. I couldn’t believe its mad genius. Nyholm had built a restaurant bar to the scale of his infant daughter, populating it with puppets of people. He then filmed his child playing around the set over the course of about a year. Look up the film online: Probably one of the greatest shorts ever made.

    *Johannes Nyholm, _Las Palmas_, 2011*, HD video, color, sound, 13 minutes 30 seconds. Johannes Nyholm, Las Palmas, 2011, HD video, color, sound, 13 minutes 30 seconds.

    This Berlin-based trio makes electronic music with acoustic instruments—so their sound, which has a warm, organic feel, is pretty much unlike anything else in the world of techno. In fact, it was their breakout single “Bop,” released by Tartelet in 2010, that started my love affair with this genre.

  8. ABCNT

    I first noticed this Iranian American street artist—his name is pronounced “Absent”—around 2009, when his iconic image of Neda Agha-Soltan was wheat-pasted all over the streets of Los Angeles. (Neda, a young Iranian woman, was tragically shot that summer in Tehran during the protests following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s much-contested reelection.) ABCNT fixates on the things that upset him and that he wants other people to see—things like corporate brainwashing and dying bees, so-called green consumerism, and the censoring of Pussy Riot. My favorite piece is ABCNT’s own self-portrait, which reveals only part of his face and leaves his identity concealed.

    *Detail of montage from the 2011 group exhibition “Sniffin’ Glue” at New Puppy Gallery, Los Angeles, with ABCNT’s image of Neda Agha-Soltan at center.* Detail of montage from the 2011 group exhibition “Sniffin’ Glue” at New Puppy Gallery, Los Angeles, with ABCNT’s image of Neda Agha-Soltan at center.

    My obsession with this film is very specific. It has to do with Korine’s cast, characters played by actors alongside nonactors from Xenia, Ohio, where the film was shot: the albino chick who loves hip-hop, talking about how hot Patrick Swayze is; the two brothers in the kitchen punching each other hit for hit; the neighbor pimping out his Down syndrome–afflicted sister, in red lipstick, to his friends. With Gummo, Korine captured the crumbling things in America—things that are bizarre, grotesque, and beautiful. That you can leave a major city in the US and, within an hour, be in some strange town where kids shoot cats and sell them to Chinese restaurants—this fascinates me.


    I was a dirty skate rat living in San Francisco when this video came out. I must have watched it a thousand times. On the tapejacket, the girl pictured jumping off a bridge is Elissa Steamer, the first legitimate girl street skater. Knowing she existed gave me bigger balls. In hindsight, skateboarding may have been the greatest training for filmmaking, which is similarly all about breaking through your fears, being in the moment, and using your environment in new ways, seeing your everyday terrain as being full of potential. Try something when you’re skating but doubt yourself and hold back? You’ll hit the asphalt and break your skin open, and it will fucking hurt. That will teach you commitment.

    *Four stills from Toy Machine’s _Jump Off a Building_, 1998*, 35 mm, color, sound, 35 minutes. Elissa Steamer. Four stills from Toy Machine’s Jump Off a Building, 1998, 35 mm, color, sound, 35 minutes. Elissa Steamer.