Zar Amir Ebrahimi and Selina Zahednia in 'Shayda'. (Photo: Nicola Bell)
Noora Niasari has earned yet another accolade for her debut feature Shayda, taking home the top prize at this evening’s Australian Directors’ Guild (ADG) Awards.
Niasari won Best Direction in a Feature Film (Budget $1M or over), triumphing over Colin and Cameron Cairnes’ Late Night With The Devil, which received an honourable mention, Gracie Otto’s Seriously Red, Jeffery Walker’s The Portable Door and Warwick Thornton’s The New Boy.
Inspired by Niasari’s childhood, Shayda follows a young Iranian mother (Zar Amir Ebrahimi) and her six-year-old daughter (Selina Zahednia) as they find refuge in an Australian women’s shelter during the two weeks of the Iranian New Year (Nowruz).
As part of her acceptance speech, Niasari invited Shayda star Jillian Nguyen to speak, with the actor reading a sample of the names of women killed by their partners in Australia this year, noting such women were why they made the film.
“I think this is the power of cinema, the power of art, that we can demand change, that we can pay more attention to those around us, listen, speak out. This is an issue that affects all of us, no matter which country you’re from, which language you speak, how much money you have. Please don’t allow domestic violence to thrive in silence,” Niasari said.
Judges called Shayda a “fabulous debut for a director”, demonstrating “exceptional control of story, screen language and performance”.
Niasari’s award was one of 20 given out by the guild this evening in a ceremony held at The Grand Electric in Sydney’s Surry Hills. All four categories recognising solely feature-length work, across both narrative and doc, were won by first-time feature directors (though naturally, Best Debut Feature Film always will be). Female directors also made up just over 50 per cent of all the winners. Entries to the awards were assessed by 74 judges.
Claire Pasvolsky took home Best Direction in a Feature Film (Budget under $1M) for her film Three Chords and the Truth, which follows a self-sabotaging 40-something musician who finds herself terminally ill, alone and struggling financially before forging an unlikely bond with a teenage runaway. Judges called it “restrained, tender and vulnerable”. Other nominees included Amin Palangi for Tennessine, James Vinson for Slant, Molly Haddon for The Longest Weekend and Scott Major for Darklands.
Best Direction in a Debut Feature Film went to actor-turned-director Mark Leonard Winter for The Rooster, while Best Direction in a Feature Documentary went to Emma Sullivan for Into The Deep, with an honourable mention to Selina Miles for Harley & Katya.
The Rooster earned high praise from the judges, described as “an astonishing debut film that deeply affected judges with the depth and complexity of its character development and provided a vehicle for what may be [Hugo] Weaving’s most powerful performance to date”.
Sullivan’s documentary played a critical role in the conviction of Danish inventor Peter Madsen for the murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, which occurred as the documentary was being made. Judges said the film “distinguished itself through the director’s adept adherence to the unadulterated narrative, deftly coupled with an editing approach that weaved a captivating and suspenseful tapestry.”
In television, Tony Krawitz won Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Mini-Series Episode for Significant Others, while Emma Freeman took home Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Drama Series Episode for the second year running for The Newsreader.Max Miller won the comedy prize for Aunty Donna’s Coffee Café, while Nick Verso took home the children’s gong for Crazy Fun Park and John Harvey the doco TV prize for Still We Rise.
Best direction in animation was won by Ricard Cussó and Tania Vincent for Scarygirl.
ADG executive director Sophie Harper said seeing debut feature filmmakers take out the top four marked a first for the awards.
“Australia has rightfully earned a reputation for our compelling, relatable and distinctive screen storytelling over many decades and this year’s winners demonstrate the incredible depth of new talent coming through the ranks,” she said.
“These awards not only provide a springboard for many directors to launch national and international careers but shine a spotlight on our best local filmmaking as a tangible reminder of why it’s so important that we protect and promote homegrown directing talent,” she said.
The full list of ADG winners:
Best Direction in a Mobile-First Online Series Episode Erin Good – Krystal Klairvoyant: Episode 22 – Season Finale
Best Direction in a Children’s TV or SVOD Drama Series Episode Nicholas Verso – Crazy Fun Park: Season 1: Episode 1 – I Don’t Want To Grow Up
Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Documentary Series Episode or Documentary One-Off John Harvey – Still We Rise
Best Direction in a Documentary Short Subject Tom Chapman – Eden Alone Surpasses Thee
Best Direction of Commercial Content James Dive – Don’t You Forget About Me
Best Direction in a Commercial Advertisement Sanjay De Silva – IKEA – Show Off Your Savvy
Best Direction in an Online Drama Series Episode Bonnie Cee – Casino Beach – Pilot
Best Direction in an Online Comedy Series Episode Madeleine Gottlieb – Latecomers: Episode 6 – Coming Good
Best Direction in an Interactive or Immersive Project Kerinne Jenkins and Nicole Hutton-Lewis – In Our Own Right – Black Australian Nurses’ Stories
Best Direction in a Short Film Alies Sluiter – Myth
Best Direction in a Student Film (Tie) Gabriel Murphy – Enemy Alien (Tie) Vee Shi – Jia
Best Direction in Animation Ricard Cussó and Tania Vincent – Scarygirl
Best Direction in a Music Video Toby Morris – Middle Kids – Bootleg Firecracker
Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Comedy Series Episode Max Miller – Aunty Donna’s Coffee Café: Season 1: Episode 2
Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Drama Series Episode Emma Freeman – The Newsreader: Season 2: Episode 5
Best Direction in a TV or SVOD Mini-Series Episode Tony Krawitz – Significant Others: Episode 1
Best Direction in a Documentary Feature Emma Sullivan – Into The Deep
Best Direction in a Debut Feature Film Mark Leonard Winter – The Rooster
Best Direction in a Feature Film (Budget under $1M) Claire Pasvolsky – Three Chords And The Truth
Best Direction in a Feature Film (Budget $1M or over) Noora Niasari – Shayda
Honourable mention (Best Direction in a Documentary Feature) Selina Miles – Harley and Katya
Honourable mention (Feature Film Budget $1m or over) Colin Cairnes and Cameron Cairnes – Late Night With the Devil