“We didn’t do the movie to highlight women’s conditions in Iran, we didn’t do the movie to do activist work,” exclaimed Swedish-Iranian filmmaker Ali Abbasi about his latest in competition Cannes Film Festival title, Holy Spider at the pic’s press conference this morning.
Ironic, given that at last night’s world premiere of the pic, a protest broke out on the red carpet of the Palais comprised of women clad in black, who let off smoke grenades and unfurled a banner with names of women killed by men in France in cases of domestic violence. A spokesperson for the documentary Riposte Féministe claimed credit for the protest, that pic centering around feminist collages in France who denounce feminicides.
Holy Spider follows Saeed, a serial killer, who at home is a meek husband and doting dad. However, when they go out of town once a week, he is hell bent on ridding the Iranian holy city of Mashhad of prostitutes. His mission 200 victims. A courageous, driven young female reporter (Zar Amir-Ebrahimi) is on his tail to catch him. In the early 2000s, there was a serial killer in Mashhad who murdered 16 street prostitutes. The cops conspired to help him escape, and he collected a following of fans, all because he was doing God’s work.
Deadline critic Stephanie Bunbury called Holy Spider “thunderously damning,” a crime thriller that “crackles and glistens with anger.”
“It’s all to say I don’t know what the real story is of these women,” said the filmmaker about the killer’s actual victims, emphasizing again, “It’ not a movie about women’s conditions in Iran.”
“The real story is that they’re human beings. The real story is that they were acute poverty. The real story is they were married when they were 14, had two kids by the time they were 23, doing junk in the streets and losing their teeth by 35,” he added.
“I’m not a big fan of serial killers. Not a fan of serial killer movies and not interested in solving crimes. The fact that the killings happened; I was following them like anyone else. Where it became something else and became interesting for me, was when a certain segment in Iranian society, and press and authority started talking about this guy as some sort of selfless hero that had been sacrificing himself to the good of his society,” said Abbasi this morning.
“It’s not a serial killer movie, it’s about a serial killer society,” Abbasi asserted.
“This isn’t an anti-Iranian government movie,” said the filmmaker, “it’s a film noir.”
“This all just happens in a religious city,” he added.
As Andreas Wiseman told you first yesterday on the pic’s premiere, the serial killer thriller’s U.S. rights are bound for Robert Schwartzman and Cole Harper’s Utopia.