Ana Lily Amirpour Talks ‘The Bad Batch’ And The Rules Of Dystopian Filmmaking

Features Writer
06.21.17

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In The Bad Batch, writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour tells the story of an outcast, Arlen (Suki Waterhouse), struggling to make her way in a dystopian near-future. Along the way, she finds herself at odds with a group of cannibals who inhabit an airplane graveyard. Known as The Bridge, they’re led by the Miami Man (Jason Momoa), a character whose path becomes increasingly intertwined with Arlen’s as the story progresses.

In anticipation of the film’s release on Friday, Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse held an advance screening on Father’s Day, held at the Stunt Ranch, a 22-acre experiential event center 20 minutes west of town. Before the movie started, attendees threw hatchets at wooden targets, rode zip lines between the trees, and practiced their trapeze skills in the safety of a harness above a net stretched out 10 feet above the ground.

Add in the whole pigs roasting over an open pit, the pulsating DJ set, and the sweltering Texas heat, it was easy to compare it to Comfort, another makeshift community featured in The Bad Batch. Unlike The Bridge, Comfort is a shantytown full of outcasts who use psychedelics as currency while living under the guidance of their cult-like leader, The Dream (Keanu Reeves). Earlier that day, in the comfort of an air conditioned room, we got the chance to talk to Amirpour about what inspired The Bad Batch, how she found the film’s locations, and the pre-set rules that exist when making a dystopian movie.

For a movie that’s sparse with its dialogue, there’s a lot going on here. What was the initial inspiration?

The idea, I guess, is a couple of things together. I think at the time when I first started writing The Bad Batch I had this feeling from life, my own life. Personal life, not work stuff. Personal, broken heart kind of stuff and I really did feel like I was chopped up and had lost some part of myself and was bleeding. So I had this image of this girl in the desert bleeding in the middle of nowhere, but just dragging herself on. She was going to fucking live. And that was the beginning of the story, and then she’d re-acclimate to her new kind of self in this crazy place called America.

It’s a love letter to America. Not post-apocalyptic America, either. That’s a term that other people I think put on the film because maybe it’s freaky to contemplate that this is actually what America’s like. That [this is] what I think it is.

It is referred to a lot as a post-apocalyptic movie, but I didn’t really see that. There are clearly some dystopian elements here.

A lot! But that is what reality is. What’s utopia?

Well, there’s a definite dystopian sense to it, but it’s not really that fantastic or over-the-top. There’s some storytelling embellishments, but it’s strikes me as a really contemporary story.

I think a lot of people have gotten that, too, so that’s cool. I think it’s interesting to see because I think it’s the survival instinct to categorize a film and not like “That’s not what we are.” You know, that can’t be how it is, because [of] the horror of that.

Well, and there’s a certain safety to labeling and classifying films. But with yours…

It’s the opposite, if anything.

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