The award-winning Australian drama, SHAYDA, from Iranian-Australian debut writer and director Noora Niasari, has been announced as the official Australian submission for Best International Feature Film at the 96th Academy Awards.
SHAYDA had its World Premiere at the Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition in January, where it won the World Cinema Audience Award. The film then opened the Melbourne International Film Festival and was the closing-night screening at Locarno Film Festival, screening for 8,000 in the Piazza Grande. It is next set to bow at TIFF on September 13th and will be in Australian cinemas from October 5th 2023.
SHAYDA is produced by Vincent Sheehan and Noora Niasari and is executive-produced by Cate Blanchett, Andrew Upton and Coco Francini of Dirty Films. It stars Cannes Best Actress winner Zar Amir Ebrahimi (Holy Spider) alongside Osamah Sami, Leah Purcell, Jillian Nguyen, Mojean Aria, Rina Mousavi & Selina Zahednia.
In SHAYDA, a young Iranian mother and her six-year-old daughter find refuge in an Australian women’s shelter during the two weeks of Iranian New Year (Nowruz) which is celebrated as a time of renewal and rebirth. Aided by the strong community of women at the shelter they seek their freedom in this new world of possibilities, only to find themselves facing the violence they tried so hard to escape.
SHAYDA is a critically acclaimed directorial debut from Tehran-born, Australia-raised Noora Niasari. Noora is a writer-director and co-founder of Parandeh Pictures, whose short films and documentaries have screened at film festivals worldwide. Of the selection, Noora said, “I see this film as an open invitation for audiences to recognize and celebrate the courage and resilience of Iranian women,
Australian women and all women fighting for freedom and independence from domestic violence. And so, to have SHAYDA represent Australia on the world stage with this submission gives me an immense sense of hope and pride.”
Australia only infrequently sends non-English language films to the Academy Awards. With only one Australian nomination in the Foreign Language category in the past, Bentley Dean and Martin Butler’s Tanna in 2017, and a steady stream of submissions in the category since 2012, the selection represents an exciting persistence in the diversification of Australian cinema.
A spokesperson for the Australian selection committee said, “There was no hesitation in putting forward Shayda as this year’s submission, which members of the committee described as – beautiful, timely, masterfully directed and a film that stays with you long after the closing credits.”
The partners at Dirty Films Blanchett, Upton, and Francini said: “Our hearts immediately connected to the story of Shayda. Its central theme of defining one’s own path is deeply rooted in the Australian psyche, but Noora Niasari has created art for a global audience. This is a powerful and resonant story of family that couldn’t be more timely, and we’re so proud that audiences are responding so enthusiastically as it embarks on an international journey.”
Producer Vincent Sheehan said: “Seeing festival audiences around the globe be so affected by Shayda’s powerful story of female empowerment and equally moved by the films’ celebration of Iranian culture has been a rewarding experience so far. And now, as the official Australian submission, there is an opportunity for the story of Shayda to reach many more”
An Origma 45 production produced in association with Dirty Films and Parandeh Pictures, 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 (MIFF) Premiere Fund.
Sony Pictures Classics has acquired all media rights in North America, Latin America, Benelux, Eastern Europe, Portugal, the Middle East and Turkey. HanWay Films are selling and partners to date include Filmcoopi in Switzerland, Metropolitan in France, TFG in Greece, Just Wanted in Italy, Caramel in Spain, Vertigo in the UK, Pictureworks in India, and Falcon in Indonesia.