Director: Noora Niasari
Producers: Vincent Sheehan, Noora Niasari
Cannes Best Actress winner Zar Amir-Ebrahimi (Holy Spider, MIFF 2022) anchors this Sundance Audience Award–winning portrait of a mother seeking a new life for herself and her daughter.
Shayda, a brave Iranian mother, finds refuge in an Australian women’s shelter with her six-year-old daughter. Over Persian New Year, they take solace in Nowruz rituals and new beginnings, but when her estranged husband re-enters their lives, Shayda’s path to freedom is jeopardised.
Supported by the MIFF Premiere Fund, the accomplished feature debut from MIFF Accelerator Lab 2015 alumna Noora Niasari (Tâm, MIFF 2020; Waterfall, MIFF 2017) was produced by Vincent Sheehan and Niasari, and executive-produced by Cate Blanchett. While forthright about the challenges of healing for those who have survived domestic violence, the film also shines a light on the indomitable hope that propels its spirited, beautifully complex characters. With affecting lead performances from Amir-Ebrahimi and newcomer Selina Zahednia – alongside Leah Purcell (The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, MIFF 2021), Jillian Nguyen (Hungry Ghosts), Osamah Sami (Ali’s Wedding, MIFF 2017), Mojean Aria (KAPO; Reminiscence) and Rina Mousavi (Itch) – Shayda is a moving story of resilience, the desire for independence, and the sacrifices and strength of a mother’s love.
Viewer Advice: Contains stroboscopic imagery; strong impact domestic violence themes; discussion of sexual violence.
“Powerful … The greatest asset of Shayda is its unmistakably feminine spirit of perseverance, one that runs wild and free in this promising debut.” – Variety.
In The Conversation, University of Technology Sydney (UTS) academic Cherine Fahd hailed Shayda “as a powerful debut feature” that “marks a profound shift in Australian storytelling and Australian cinema” given it “avoids common Australian film tropes” as well as “clichéd Aussie humour” and “traditional Australian archetypes like pristine beaches, gothic outback and heroic male personas” whilst “it refrains from marginalising Middle Eastern characters” and “presents an unflinching portrayal of domestic violence and the grim reality of an Iranian woman trapped in an oppressive marriage” yet also “beautifully captures the essence of [Persian New Year] Nowruz as a symbol of hope and rejuvenation.” Sherwin Akbarzadeh’s “breathtaking” cinematography and a “remarkable performance” by Zar Amir Ebrahimi opposite “robust” turns by Osamah Sami and Leah Purcell “infusing the narrative with authenticity and emotion” ensures “Shayda serves as a testament to the enduring strength of Iranian women fighting for their basic rights, resonating powerfully against the backdrop of the ongoing women’s revolution in Iran. Niasari’s dedication to her mother and all the courageous women of Iran permeates every frame of this film.”