Directed by Iranian-born Ali Abbasi, Holy Spider follows a female journalist investigating the serial killings of sex workers in the Iranian holy city of Mashhad.
A family man is behind the murders, believing himself to be on a religious quest to clear the streets of scum and sinners.
The chilling Cannes Festival film is based on the real-life story of Saeed Hanaei, a father of three, who killed at least 16 women between 2000 and 2001 in the holy city.
The serial-killer thriller uncovers how he became a hero to some militants and The Telegraph gave Holy Spider a full five-star review, remarking on how the film is “profoundly compelling, expertly made, and quite intentionally horrifying”.
There are grimy sex scenes, heartbreaking moments with the sex workers, and bone-chilling revelations on the predator who thinks he’s on the side of the angels.
Take a moment for the trailer:
It’s Rahimi (Zar Amir Ebrahimi), a female journalist on a dogged quest to expose the killer, that really does the hard yards:
She’s the feminist crusader the film straightforwardly requires to make a lot of its points, about a top-down conspiracy to blame women for a problem originating, as Abbasi uses his entire film to argue, in the sick hearts of men.
As we come to know Saeed (renamed Saeed Azimi here, since this isn’t strictly a docudrama), we grasp that he’s a pathetic hypocrite, who pretends to have a morally upstanding home life, but gives vent to his animal urges even with the dead…
…There’s a tonal shift into judicial debate, borrowing some forensic methods from Asghar (A Separation) Farhadi, to examine what’s more systemically appalling than even Saeed’s stated defence: the widespread support he gets as a matter of course.
The film has already sparked a major conversation.
Before the screening of Holy Spider at Cannes, a group of activists took charge of the red carpet to protest the killing of sex workers, according to The Guardian:
About 12 women went on to the red carpet before the screening of Holy Spider, carrying a banner with the first names of 129 women killed in France since the last time the festival was held.
The group, dressed in black, also set off black smoke grenades as they paused on steps in front of the Palais des Festivals. According to Agence France-Presse, the group are members of the feminist group Les Colleuses.
The festival has proven to be a hotspot for activists to voice their concerns.
At the premiere of George Miller’s film Three Thousand Years of Longing, protestors from the French group SCUM appeared to demonstrate against sexual violence by Russian forces in Ukraine.
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