Tsar Amir Ebrahimi was banished from Iran. Now she has been awarded Best Actress in Cannes

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Written by Mohammed Abdelbary, CNNAbu Dhabi

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When Iranian actress Tsar 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 award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

Ebrahimi rose to fame in her native Iran, but the crowning moment of her Cannes career came when she was in exile for a film being 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 covers the hunt for a construction worker suspected of murdering 16 sex workers.

Winning the award “was like a dream,” she told CNN’s Becky Anderson on Thursday.

The film touches on the theme of patriarchy, which Rahimi hopes will send “a message of courage, a message of hope, not just for women, but for men and women around the world.”

The win has put her back in the limelight in Iran and sparked a backlash. The actress told CNN that she received around 200 threats. “The problem is that they haven’t even seen this film and are only judging this film from a trailer,” she said, attributing the reaction to the lack of freedom of expression in Iran.

Ebrahimi fled Iran for France in 2006 after a “private video” of her was leaked, fearing arrest and flogging by judicial authorities, she said. She had to restart her career “in a country where I didn’t know anyone”.

“I had to flee my country and my homeland. I left my friends and family behind,” she told CNN. But she refused to let the scandal affect her career. “Since the very day after this scandal happened to me, I’ve only talked about cinema, just thinking that I’m alive and have to work. And you know, I’ll be alive because I have movies, because I love my work, because I love life.”

Ebrahimi said her next film will be shot in Australia. She has no plans to return to her homeland.

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