Ebrahimi, 41, won for Holy Spider, in which she plays a journalist who tries to solve the serial murders of prostitutes in the holy city of Mashhad.
Iranian Zar Amir Ebrahimi, who lives in exile after a smear campaign about her love life, wept with joy when she won the best actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
Ebrahimi, 41, won for Holy Spider, in which she plays a journalist who tries to solve the serial murders of prostitutes in Iran’s holy city of Mashhad.
“I have come a long way to be on this stage tonight. It was not an easy story. It was a humiliation, but there was cinema,” she told the audience on Saturday in her acceptance speech.
Directed by Danish-Iranian Ali Abbasi, Holy Spider was inspired by the true story of a working-class man who murdered prostitutes in the early 2000s and became known as the “Spider Killer”.
The film was not allowed to be shot in Iran and was instead shot in Jordan.
Ebrahimi became a star in Iran in her early twenties for her supporting role in one of the longest-running soap operas, Nargess.
Zar AMIR EBRAHIMI, winner of the Best Actress Award for HOLY SPIDER (THE NIGHTS OF MASHHAD) by Ali ABBASI.
Zar AMIR EBRAHIMI, award winner for Best Actress in Ali ABBASI’s HOLY SPIDER. #Cannes2022 #palmares #Awards #HOLYSPIDER #photocall pic.twitter.com/9Jxw42xZRM
— Cannes Film Festival (@Festival_Cannes) May 28, 2022
‘Impossible to show in Iran’
Ebrahimi’s character in Holy Spider has also been the victim of lascivious rumors and male predation. The film suggests there was little official pressure to catch the killer, who is becoming a hero among the religious right.
“This movie is about women, it’s about their bodies, it’s a movie full of faces, hair, hands, feet, breasts, sex, everything that is impossible to show in Iran,” Ebrahimi told the audience.
Abbasi stressed that the film should not be seen as controversial.
“Everything shown here is part of people’s everyday lives. There is plenty of evidence that people in Iran also have sex. There is ample evidence of prostitution in every city in Iran,” he told reporters.
Ebrahimi grew up in Tehran, where she attended drama school, made her first film when she was 18, and quickly became known for playing wise and morally upright characters.
Banned from Iran
In 2006, Iranian investigators began investigating a video widely circulated on the black market that purported to show the young soap star making love to her boyfriend.
The author of the leak, faced with arrest, fled the country. Ebrahimi said at the time that she was the victim of an “immoral campaign”. The case became so high-profile that Tehran’s chief prosecutor handled it personally.
“They wanted to remove me from everywhere, remove me from the cinema. maybe because of [commit] suicide, to die. But in the end I’m here with this award,” she said at a press conference after the award ceremony.
Ebrahimi then moved to Paris, spoke no French, and kept up with odd jobs.
“I knew nothing about the film industry in France,” she told Le Monde newspaper. “There was no one to help me. It took me two or three years to figure out where I had ended up.”