By Rachel Galvin
As the streets of Iran have erupted with protestors enraged at the killing of a 22-year-old woman who dared to show a little too much hair from beneath her head scarf, a film called “Holy Spider” comes along to throw focus on Iran’s societal ills wrapped in a crime drama based on a true story.
Directed by an Iranian director from Denmark named Ali Abbasi, the grisly tale follows a determined journalist who has come from Tehran to Mashhad to uncover the truth about a serial killer who is prowling the streets seeking to rid the city of corrupt women. The killings really happened from 2000 to 2001 but some fictional elements have been added to the tale, including the addition of the reporter.
The journalist, Rahimi, undergoes a very dangerous journey to try to find the killer, who thinks he is doing something righteous. The story follows her quest and his and how they intersect, as well as examining the community around them that has shaped their lives in one way or another.
The close-up camera work adds extra focus to the brutality of the killings in this film. That plus the treatment of women in the culture and the desperate conditions of some who live there makes the film difficult to watch yet important.
Zar Amir-Ebrahimi, who plays Rahimi, garnered a Best Actress award at Cannes this year for the role. Mehdi Bajestani, who plays the killer Saeed, also gives a nuanced performance showing love for his family and disgust for corruption, as well as anxiety at times and ego at others.
The film has also been entered as an Oscar contender in the International Film category. The film is told in Persian with English subtitles.
You can watch “Holy Spider” on Sunday, Nov. 6, 4 p.m. at the Tower Theater as part of GEMS Miami Film Festival.