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Holy Spider film image, director Ali Abbasi

Holy Spider

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Mashhad, Iran, a holy city home to the Imam Reza shrine, served, in 2001, as hunting ground for a serial killer known as The Spider. This man, eventually identified as Saeed Hanaei, believed he was acting in the service of God and his city by “cleansing” the streets of sex workers, 16 of whom he brutally murdered. Directed by Ali Abbasi, actress Zar Amir Ebrahimi won the prestigious Best Actress award at Cannes for her leading role as Rahimi, a journalist returning to her hometown to help bring the killer to justice.

Abbasi presents what at first appears as a straightforward tale of cat and mouse, and good versus evil. But upon The Spider’s capture, Rahimi is horrified to discover that he has a great deal of support from his friends and those who agree with his skewed judgment of morality. Abbasi presents this mind-boggling scenario free of exaggeration or sentimentality, broadcasting the disturbing degree to which victims can be dehumanized and perpetrators exalted.


Best Actress Award (Zar Amir Ebrahimi), Cannes 2022


Mehdi Bajestani, Zar Amir Ebrahimi, Arash Ashtiani, Forouzan Jamshidnejad, Alice Rahimi, Sara Fazilat

Country of Origin





In Persian with English subtitles

Film Contact
Content Warning

Graphic Violence, Sexual Violence

117 min
Award Winners Drama Human Rights & Social Justice

Book Tickets

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Executive Producer

Ditte Milsted, Christoph Lange


Sol Bondy, Jacob Jarek, Ali Abbasi


Ali Abbasi, Afshin Kamran Bahrami


Nadim Carlsen


Hayedeh Safiyari, Olivia Neergaard-Holm

Production Design

Lina Nordqvist

Original Music

Martin Dirkov


Ali Abbasi headshot, Holy Spider director

Photo by Nadim Carlsen

Ali Abbasi

Ali Abbasi is a writer and director originally from Iran. He has a BA in architecture and studied directing at the National Film School of Denmark. His feature debut, Shelley (2016) premiered at the Berlinale in 2016 and was released in the US. He is best known for his 2018 film Border, which premiered in Cannes and won the Un Certain Regard Award. The film was chosen as Sweden’s Academy Award entry, was widely released internationally, and won the Danish Film Award. He is currently shooting the TV adaptation of The Last of Us for HBO in Canada.

Filmography: Shelley (2016); Border (2018)