Holy Spider

August 25, 2023

Feature film

Review: Recommended

The movie Holy Spider is a powerful, unsparing, and impactful depiction of the oppression of women in Iran. This film (in Farsi with English subtitles) was released in a few U.S. theaters last fall and is now streaming on Netflix and other platforms.

Holy Spider is based on the true story of a series of murders of street prostitutes in Mashhad in eastern Iran, where a major Islamic shrine and religious complex are located. The screenwriter/director Ali Abbasi utilizes a fictional woman journalist, played by the award-winning Zar Amir Ebrahimi, to tell the story. What she uncovers is horrifying in ways one cannot prepare for. A gripping murder mystery unfolds which paints a living picture of the Islamic Republic's women-hating fundamentalist ideology, laws, and culture, as well as the horrors it enforces and unleashes.

Created before the nationwide storm of protest in Iran following the September 26, 2022 murder of Mahsa “Jina” Amini (see accompanying Inside the Iranian Uprising), the film paints a visceral picture of the deep hatred millions of Iranian women have for their oppression, and opens a window into why this uprising erupted with such fury and courage.

“I know that fear, I know that humiliation,” Amir Ebrahimi told the New York Times after winning the best actress award at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival (after which she and others involved in the film were threatened by the Islamic Republic). “I know how men in Iran use their power to keep you quiet.”

Holy Spider is available on Netflix, or to rent on Amazon Prime and Vudu.