“Holy Spider,” Ali Abbasi’s Iranian thriller that has earned rave reviews after premiering at Cannes in the main competition on Sunday, has had its North American rights acquired by Utopia, the U.S. distributor and sales company owned by Robert Schwartzman and Cole Harper.
The film stars actors Mehdi Bajestani and Zar Amir Ebrahimi. And Abbasi, who is an Iranian-Swedish director known for the troll movie and Un Certain Regard winner “Border,” has described “Holy Spider” as a “Persian Noir.” The movie shocked Cannes audiences for its frank discussions about gender in Iran but also its graphic violence and male and female nudity. At the same time, it has emerged as an early frontrunner for the Palme d’Or.
In “Holy Spider,” female journalist Rahimi (Ebrahimi) travels to the Iranian holy city of Mashhad to investigate a serial killer (Bajestani) who believes he is doing the work of God, cleansing the streets of sinners by murdering sex workers. As the body count mounts, and Rahimi draws closer to exposing his crimes, the opportunity for justice grows harder to attain as the ‘Spider Killer’ is embraced by many as a hero.
In his review of the film for TheWrap, Ben Croll wrote that Abbasi with “Holy Spider” turns the murder thriller “upside down, telling a story where the killer’s identify is never in doubt and his intentions are always crystal clear, and where the greatest source of tension comes from wondering whether anyone in power will lift a finger to stop him.”
Abbasi wrote “Holy Spider” with Afshin Kamran Bahrami. Sol Bondy and Jacob Jarek produced the film.
Production companies are Profile Pictures and One Two Films, and co-producers are Nordisk Film Production, Wild Bunch International, Film i Väst, Why Not Productions, ZDF/ARTE, and ARTE France Cinéma.
The deal was negotiated by Danielle DiGiacomo on behalf of Utopia, CAA Media Finance and Eva Diederix on behalf of Wild Bunch International. Abbasi is represented by CAA.
“I am really looking forward to working with the great team at Utopia, a company who are passionate about cinema that takes risks and doesn’t compromise,” Abbasi said.
“Ali Abbasi is one of the standout filmmaking visionaries of our generation, and with ‘Holy Spider,’ he has crafted a riveting cinematic masterpiece that is impossible to forget,” DiGiacomo, head of content for Utopia, said. “Utopia is honored to be partnering with Abbasi and his team to bring it to the widest audience possible and assure it is the film that everyone is talking about this year, and for years to come.”
Utopia launched in 2019 and has already acquired films such as Lena Dunham’s “Sharp Stick” and “American Dharma.”
Deadline first reported the news.