“I always had a very specific sense of urgency with this idea,” said Holy Spider director Ali Abbasi of wanting to make a film noir based on the true story of the “Spider Killer” Saeed Hanaei, who saw himself as on a mission from God as he killed 16 women between 2000 and 2001.
The Persian-language drama, which has been a buzz title on the international film circuit since it played in-competition at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, follows female journalist Rahimi, who travels to the Iranian holy city of Mashhad to investigate a serial killer targeting sex workers. As she draws closer to exposing his crimes, the opportunity for justice grows harder to attain when the murderer is embraced by many as a hero. Zar Amir-Ebrahimi stars as Rahimi, and she picked the award for Best Actress in Cannes.
RELATED: The Contenders International – Deadline’s Full Coverage
The Utopia film later became Denmark’s entry into the International Feature Oscar race.
While the project took a while to get off the ground, Abbasi said he couldn’t have imagined that the film would be launched into a world where the country is experiencing what he describes as a “revolution.”
On September 13, Mahsa Amini was killed after being arrested by morality police in Tehran for allegedly violating Iran’s strict rules requiring women to cover their hair. Since then, more than 200 people have been killed in the country as women fight for their rights.
“What’s happening in Iran is the most consequential incident that has been happening in half a century and I think it’s not a protest movement anymore, I think it’s a revolution,” said Abbasi at Deadline’s Contenders Film: International awards-season event. “And I think it’s that it’s going to change the face of the whole region forever. I didn’t think ever in my lifetime I would see women marching in the streets for their rights and men marching behind them and supporting their rights knowing that if women have rights then they will also be better off. That’s absolutely incredible.”
Amir-Ebrahimi noted that since the protests, she has viewed Holy Spider and her character differently.
“During the shoot and before, I was trying to find her reasons, her motivation to risk her life at this point and I think somehow today I brought my questions with myself to this movie,” she says. “But I think today I just have my answers. Yes, I have to say I see the movie in a different way, even my character and when I see these women just fighting for their freedoms and risking their lives with men in the streets of Iran it’s like this character became the reality of society.”
Check out the panel video above.
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