MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 1, 2024: SHAYDA

Trauma and abuse fuel a Persian woman’s determination to change her life — and that of her young daughter — in writer/director Noora Niasari’s compelling feature drama debut Shayda. Thanks to Niasari’s sensitive script and empathetic direction and star Zar Amir Ebrahimi’s excellent performance, the result is a film that’s likely to leave viewers feeling both rage at misogynistic traditions and hope for the possibility of change, transformation, and renewal.

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SHAYDA – Review by Loren King

In her compelling feature debut about a young mother’s flight from domestic abuse, Australian-Iranian writer/director Noora Niasari creates tension that simmers from the first scene to the last frame. Zar Amir Ebrahimi is superb as the title character, a Iranian woman living in Australia in 1995 with her young daughter Mona (Selina Zahednia). Shayda is attempting to leave her abusive husband, Hossein (Osamah Sami), a medical student who intends to move back to Iran with Shadya and Mona, despite Shayda’s steps to obtain a divorce. Fearful that the angry Hossein will abduct Mona, Shadya and her daughter take refuge in a women’s shelter run by the non-nonsense but compassionate Joyce (the excellent Leah Purcell.

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Women @ 71st Melbourne International Film Fest – Alexandra Heller-Nicholas reports

In 2023, MIFF, well, felt like MIFF again. Mask sightings were rare, the festival’s long queues wound snake-like around city blocks once again, and if not for the unseasonably warm weather it felt like business as usual. With in-cinema programming running from 3 to 20 August and MIFF Play streaming from 18 to 27 August, MIFF is not just a lengthy festival when compared with other international fests, but also one of the longest running; founded in 1952, its first edition was a year after the first Berlin Film Fest, and it predates both TIFF and Sundance by decades. TIFF is perhaps the most useful point of reference when it comes to trying to capture the tone of MIFF for those in the Northern Hemisphere; while both have a significant industry portion (amongst other things, MIFF hosts the annual 37ºSouth Market), both festivals are marked by a kind of proud, public facing euphoria and share a similar spirit of accessibility when it comes to welcoming audiences from all walks of life, not just industry players going through the motions.

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SHAYDA (Melbourne IFF 2023) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

On the back of her extraordinary performance in Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider that saw her win the Best Actress Award at Cannes in 2022, Zar Amir-Ebrahimi tackles a very different character in Noora Niasari’s devastating yet moving Shayda. Set in suburban Australia, the film’s title character Amir-Ebrahimi packs a powerful performance as an emotionally shell-shocked Iranian woman who finds herself suddenly alone with her six-year-old daughter Mona hiding out in a women’s shelter as she attempts to divorce her abusive husband,

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SHAYDA (Sundance FF2023) – Review by Nadine Whitney

Iranian-Australian director Noora Niasari’s potent and essential debut is based on her childhood experiences. As a child Noora was living in a women’s shelter after her Iranian mother had to flee her abusive father. Noora asked her mother to write an autobiography of her experiences dealing with the constant fear of her retributive husband, exile from the Persian community in Australia, and the determination to raise her daughter in as stable an environment as possible. The memoire became Niasari’s basis of Shayda. Shayda received the Audience Award for World Cinema: Dramatic at Sundance Film Festival 2023.

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HOLY SPIDER – Review by Diane Carson

A determined investigative woman reporter, Rahimi, anchors Iranian born director Ali Abbasi’s unnerving Holy Spider, its original title Les Nuits de Mashhad, Nights of Mashhad. It dramatizes horrifying, historic events, the murders of sixteen women in Iran’s holy city of Mashhad. Believing in his religious duty, pious family man Saeed picks up and strangles several prostitutes, the crimes violently depicted.

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Telluride Film Fest 2022: A Woman’s Wrap – Diane Carson reports

Over Labor Day weekend, the 49th Telluride Film Festival presented thought-provoking films to its full complement of attendees, a nice rebound from the all-mask 2021 event. As always, no one could come close to seeing all the enticing films on offer, so tough choices and constant second guessing rules. This year women directed and dominated exceptionally strong selections that tell stories of quite different time periods and subjects. Intelligently and insightfully observing internal and external struggles, revealing the specificity of contemporary and historical pressures (so remarkably relevant today), the fest’s films reached out and inspired as they informed. We are, indeed, a global community.

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