When Iranian actress Zar Amir Ebrahimi fled her country in 2006 because of a leaked tape, she thought her career was over. But on Saturday, she became the first Iranian to win the best actress prize at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.
Ebrahimi rose to fame in her native Iran, but the pinnacle of her career in Cannes came when she was in exile, for a film shot in Jordan.
Directed by Iranian-born Ali Abbasi, “Holy Spider” is based on the true story of a serial killer in the holy city of Mashad, Iran. It follows a journalist, Rahimi, as she reports on the hunt for a construction worker suspected of murdering 16 sex workers.
Winning the award “was like a dream,” she told DailyExpertNews’s Becky Anderson on Thursday.
The film touches on the subject of patriarchy, which Rahimi hopes will “send a message of courage, a message of hope, not just to women, but to men and women around the world.”
The win has pushed her back into the limelight in Iran and has sparked a backlash. The actress told DailyExpertNews that she has received about 200 threats. “The problem is, they haven’t even watched this movie, and they’re only judging this movie based on a trailer,” she said, attributing the reaction to Iran’s lack of freedom of expression.
Ebrahimi fled Iran to France in 2006 after a “private video” of her was leaked, fearing arrest and flogging by judicial authorities, she said. She had to start her career over ‘in a country where I knew no one’.
“I had to run from my country, from my home. I left my friends and family behind,” she told DailyExpertNews. But she refused to let the scandal ruin her career. “From the very day after that scandal happened to me, all I talked about was cinema, I just thought I’m alive and I have to work. And you know, I’ll live because I have cinema, because I love my job, because I love life.”
Ebrahimi said her next film will be shot in Australia. She has no plans to return to her homeland.