‘Shayda’ wins Audience Award at Sundance


Noora Niasari’s debut feature Shayda took home the Audience Award in Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition over the weekend.

Inspired by Niasari’s own childhood, Shayda stars Cannes-winning actress 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 his new production venture Origma 45, with Dirty Films’ Cate Blanchett, Andrew Upton and Coco Francini the executive producers.

Reviews for the film have been very favourable, with critics hailing it a powerful and affecting debut. Together with the Sundance award, Blanchett and Amir-Ebrahimi’s involvement, and the timeliness of the film’s subject matter given the current women’s rights movement in Iran, prospects are bright.

Other Australian films to have screened in Sundance this year include Danny and Michael Philippou’s feature debut Talk to Me, with A24 reported to be closing a seven figure deal on the film and brothers signing to WME; Daina Reid’s Run Rabbit Run, for which Netflix bought the worldwide rights; and Robert Connolly’s Blueback.

Winning the festival’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition was UK film Scrapper, directed by Charlotte Regan, while the US dramatic grand jury prize went to A Thousand and One, directed by A.V. Rockwell.

Shayda received major production investment from Screen Australia in association with The 51 Fund and was financed with support from VicScreen and the Melbourne International Film Festival Premiere Fund. Madman will distribute in Australia.