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by Karen Pecota

Australia | 2022 Director: Noora Niasari

In SHAYDA filmmaker Noora Niasari writes and directs a feature narrative of a portrayal of her own story when she and her mother journeyed to a foreign land in search of freedom in SHAYDA. Producer Vincent Sheehan met Noora in 2018. Their twenty-minute scheduled meeting turned into over an hour as Noora shared that, at six-years of age, her mother chose to escape the confines of the Iranian culture as they knew it.

Sheehan could not stop thinking about the great lengths these two women (one adult and one child) went through in search of freedom for a better life. Sheehan recalls, "The emotion and the connection she [Noora] exuded about her story was affecting and resonated long after - here was a new voice. A brave one. A distinctive one." Adding, "Noora described a moment, a situation, a clash of cultures - a women's shelter in the 1990s."

Noora shares, "When I was five years old, my first experience of freedom was inside an Australian women's shelter, living alongside other women and children's seeking a life without fear." Continuing, "Women like my mother were ostracized for seeking basic human rights: the right to ask for divorce, to have custody over their children, to choose how they dress, to dance in the streets, to let their hair flow in the wind and exhale." Adding, "I never imagined a day would come where Women led Revolution would take hold in Iran as it is today. I am in awe of these women. This film is dedicated to my mother and the brave women and girls of Iran."

The support of Dirty Films Independent film and TV productions is what has put SHAYDA on the map. It's their opportunity to showcase personal Middle Eastern true-to-life storytelling as well as insight into viable experiences other than the projection of stereotypes.


An Iranian couple, Shayda (Zar Amir Ebrahimi) and Hossein (Osamah Sami) lived abroad as students and, while completing their studies, they had a daughter, Mona (Selina Zahednia). As time progressed, Shayda enjoyed the freedoms of their adopted culture. When it was time to return to Iran, Shayda was resistant to her husband's yearning to resume their Iranian lifestyle--one she knew would have cultural constraints detrimental to the freedoms of women and girls. Shayda takes Mona to seek refuge in an Australian Women's shelter. Their fight for freedom has its consequences when Hossein refuses to let them go out of his cultural duty.

Sundance Film Festival 2023 Audience Award in the World Cinema Category