EXCLUSIVE: New York indie sales and distribution firm Utopia acquired North American rights to Ali Abbasi’s third feature, Holy Spider, following its bow in competition at Cannes last May. Today, Deadline can share the first official trailer for the award-winning thriller. Check it out above.
Written by Abbasi and Afshin Kamran Bahrami, the film follows Rahimi, a young female journalist, 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.
The story is based on the real-life case of the ‘Spider Killer’ Saeed Hanaei, who claimed he was on a mission from God as he killed 16 women between 2000 and 2001.
Earlier this week, Denmark selected the film as its official submission to this year’s International Feature Oscar race, and the film has a good chance of making the cut.
Speaking of the film and the current violence in Iran, Abbasi said: “In telling the true story of real-life zealot Said Hanaei who murdered women and the religious authorities that enabled him, we filmmakers stand in solidarity with the thousands of young Iranians that are braving the bullets of government henchmen. This incident is a painful reminder of how brutal the realities of Iranian society remain for women. They deserve to be heard and taken seriously. They deserve to be free.”
The film stars Mehdi Bajestani, Arash Ashtiani, Forouzan Jamshidnejad, Alice Rahimi, Sara Fazilat, Sina Parvaneh, Nima Akbarpour, and Mesbah Taleb alongside Zar Amir Ebrahimi — who picked up the Best Actress award in Cannes for her leading performance.
Additional credits include cinematography by Nadim Carlsen, production design by Lina Nordqvist, and editing by Hayedeh Safiyari & Olivia Neergaard-Holm. The film’s music is composed by Martin Dirkov.
Holy Spider is produced by Jacob Jarek for Profile Pictures in co-production with German One Two Films by Sol Bondy. Co-producers are Eva Åkergren, Calle Marthin, Peter Possne, Fred Burle, Vincent Maraval, Pascal Caucheteux, Gregoire Sorlat, Olivier Père, and Rémi Burah.
The film was supported by The Danish Film Institute, Eurimages, Medienboard Berlin – Brandenburg, Filmförderungsanstalt, Swedish Film Institute, DFFF, Nordisk Film & TV Fond, MOIN Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig – Holstein.
Deadline can also share the film’s official poster: