January 31, 2023

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Ali Abbasi, Anna Lily Amirpur Talk ‘Holy Spider’

3 min read

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was accused of wearing a loose hijab, has sparked a wave of protests in Iran, closely followed by Iranian diaspora directors Ali Abbasi and Anna Lily Amirpour. The filmmakers may not have frequent protests, but they are watching with a great sense of participation.

Abbasi’s film “Holy Spider,” about a family man named Saeed who becomes a serial killer when he embarks on a religious quest to “cleanse” the holy Iranian city of Mashhad of prostitutes, could not be more timely. The boundary-pushing thriller, shortlisted for the International Feature Oscar race (submitted by Denmark), is about a local female journalist, played by Zar Amir-Ebrahimi, who tries to crack the case, frustrated by the helplessness and indifference of the police to find the killer. .

Amirpour’s feature film, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” which he describes as the world’s first Iranian vampire western; “bad batch”; And “Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon” put her at the forefront of subversive feminist filmmaking.

Go to a video conversation diversity Given exclusive access, the filmmakers shared their thoughts on how the significance of the “sacred spider” is evolving as “the revolution unfolds in Iran,” as Abbasi puts it.

Read on for excerpts from their conversation:

Amirpur: I heard you say it’s a serial killer society movie. And as an Iranian, I totally understand what you’re saying because we grew up knowing what it is, intimately.

Abbasi: I feel that this is a strange moment because it feels [like] The movie is extended. It seems to be evolving. It’s the same movie, but as things evolve, as the revolution in Iran evolves, I see these amazing brave girls and boys in Iran, 14-year-old boys eating bullets in the street, and sometimes when some journalists ask me if I’m afraid or if I Feel the risk, I’m ashamed. I’m really embarrassed to even answer this question because I’m not taking bullets. I’m not being executed, I’m not being shot, I’m sitting here, I’m very comfortable. I might be bored [them]And try to poke the Iranian rulers in the eye, but I can at least do that.

Amirpur: But you are right! And you don’t have censorship to deal with. I was very relieved when I saw this film: people probably don’t realize that there has never been a film that shows you a side of Iranian society, the Iranian people, that you would never see, in this clear and direct way, so that you Can feel it and process it. Because they can’t. And so you made this film, you’re giving people a view that no one gets to see.

Abbasi: Thank you. I also felt we had a responsibility, you know? We have means, we have freedom and we have opportunities to do things. We didn’t want to make a controversial movie, we didn’t want to make a cool, flashy movie.

Amirpur: All an Iranian has to do is perst and it is controversial. Iranians do anything and it is controversial.

Abbasi: Yes, but everything is very, very political, which is another part of it. I’m very invested in everything that’s going on right now with the Iranian revolution – I do what I can. But I actually did a movie that I think has layers, addresses a certain complexity of Iranian society, and it’s a film noir: it lives and dies on mood and atmosphere, and it has a certain cinematic value, at least for itself. And as much as I love to talk about what’s going on in Iran, I also love to be like, ‘It’s not just politics, it’s more than that!’ It’s not just a women’s-issues film: it’s about innocence, repressed sexuality meets religion, it’s about so many things for me. And sometimes I also think I try to moderate that conversation a little bit, because I don’t want people to say you have to have a degree and a PhD in Iranian history to watch the movie. In other words: I want people to feel: ‘Hey, this is a movie about something that feels like…’ I mean: Is the mistreatment in the US as bad as it is in Iran? I don’t think so.

Amirpur: Not even close.

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