‘Shayda’, ‘Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story’ confirmed for MIFF

Stills from 'Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story' and 'Shayda'.

An award-winning Sundance selection and a documentary portrait of an Australian music icon are the first films to be included in this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) program.

Noora Niasari’s debut Shayda is set to open the event, taking place August 3-20, while Paul Goldman’s Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story will have its world premiere in a special Music On Film section.

MIFF artistic director Al Cossar expected both titles to “make a major impression” at the festival.

“We’re so proud to welcome audiences to our 2023 festival with Noora Niasari’s anticipated Shayda – an affecting, deeply felt, and beautifully crafted story of a mother and daughter against the odds, by an Australian filmmaker you need to know,” he said.

“A few days beyond that, Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story will shake up the stadiums with an epicly raconteur-ish charting of Australian rock history, as told by Australian rock royalty, in a compellingly candid remembrance of Melbourne’s iconic music mogul. Our congratulations to the film teams of Shayda and Ego – and this is just the start for MIFF 2023.”

Inspired by Niasari’s own childhood, Shayda stars Zar Amir-Ebrahimi (Holy Spider) as a young Iranian mother who finds refuge with her six-year-old daughter Mona (Selina Zahednia) in an Australian women’s shelter during the two weeks of Iranian New Year.

Aided by the strong community of women at the refuge, they seek their freedom in this new world of possibilities, only to find themselves facing the violence they tried so hard to escape – namely Hossein, Shayda’s domineering and abusive husband (Osamah Sami), who seeks to be reunited with his daughter. Also starring are Leah Purcell, Jillian Nguyen, Mojean Aria, Rina Mousavi, and Eve Morey. Vincent Sheehan produced Shayda through Origma 45, with Dirty Films’ Cate Blanchett, Andrew Upton, and Coco Francini serving as executive producers.

The film was well received at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition.

Niasari, a former MIFF Accelerator Lab participant, said the festival’s recognition of the film “meant the world to our cast and crew who worked tirelessly through a Melbourne winter to bring this Iranian-Australian story to life”.

“It’s emotional for me,” she said.

“I became a filmmaker in Melbourne and MIFF has been a huge part of that journey. Bringing Shayda to Australian audiences at the Opening Night Gala is a dream.”

More than two years after the death of Michael Gudinski aged 68, Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story will chart the influence of the Mushroom Records founder via behind-the-scenes stories of domestic and international musicians he pioneered, delving into the unorthodox tactics that helped the well-loved industry figure build an empire.

Featuring interviews with Kylie Minogue, Dave Grohl, Sting, Ed Sheeran, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Jimmy Barnes, the documentary pays tribute to Gudinski and the musical history he helped shape.

It was produced by Bethany Jones and Paige McGinley, alongside co-producer Marie Maroun and executive producer Matt Gudinski. The creative team also included DOP Joanne Donahoe-Beckwith.

The film forms part of the Music on Film gala event, which will deliver red carpet events across multiple Melbourne venues on Thursday, August 10.

Goldman said Gudinski “would love” the documentary’s MIFF inclusion.

“Michael Gudinski was an immensely proud and passionate Melbournian,” he said.

“His fierce love affair with all things Melbourne was legendary, one of the deeply important and personal things in his life. Especially putting the Melbourne music scene and Australian artists on the map, both here and overseas.

“MIFF has played a significant part in my filmmaking life. It’s a festival I’ve cherished since I first attended in the early 80s. And I’ve had two films close the festival in Australian Rules and Suburban Mayhem, so bringing this film to my hometown, putting it in front of a Melbourne audience, having our world premiere at MIFF, is enormously gratifying for all of us involved in making this documentary.”

A First Glance MIFF program announcement will be shared on June 8 ahead of the full 2023 Program Launch on July 11.