Denmark has selected Ali Abbasi’s Iran-set serial killer thriller Holy Spider as its official contender for the 2023 Academy Awards in the best international feature category.
The film is inspired by the true story of a serial killer who murdered sex workers in the streets of Mashhad, Iran’s holiest city, from 2000-2001. When his crimes came to light, some among Iran’s extreme religious right defended his acts as an attempt to purge the city of sin. Abassi’s film follows the case through the eyes of a female journalist, played by Zar Amir Ebrahimi, who descends into the dark underworld of Mashhad to investigate the murders.
Holy Spider premiered in Cannes this year, where Ebrahimi won best actress honors. Conservatives and state-aligned media inside Iran have condemned the film, with the Ministry of Culture calling Holy Spider “fake, hateful and disgusting.”
Given the current global outcry over Iran’s crackdown on nationwide human rights protests, Tehran’s opposition to Holy Spider is likely to help the film in the awards race.
Utopia picked up the film following its Cannes debut and is planning a U.S. release on Oct. 28.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the 15 shortlist contenders for the 2023 international feature Oscar on Dec. 21. The five nominees will be announced Jan. 24. The 95th Academy Awards will take place on March 12, 2023.