March 22, 2023

A still from Shayda by Noora Niasari, an official selection of the World Dramatic Competition at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by the press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Shayda is a film written and directed by Noora Niasari. It stars Zar Amir Ebrahimi and Selina Zahednia.


Having left her abusive husband Hossein (Osamah Sami), Shayda (Zar Amir Ebrahimi) now lives with her six-year-old daughter, Mona (Selina Zahednia) at an Australian women’s shelter. Unfortunately, Hossein is granted visitation rights, leading Shayda to fear that Hossein will take their daughter back to Iran. Juggling the fear of losing her daughter and her newfound freedoms, Shayda finds refuge with the other women at the shelter, who are all facing similar dilemmas.


The film is in a square format, which I think perfectly fits the timeline of the story. There is the also the back and forth of fear and hope. Nowruz (Persian New Year) is a major part of the story, with an emphasis on key parts of the festivities. Likewise, birds are used as a metaphor throughout the film, being displayed both in caged and environments, where they are free to fly.


Ebrahimi performance as Shayda was striking; she performed a full array of emotions throughout the film. Shayda’s relationship with Mona (Selina Zahednia) was also sweet and endearing, and I really empathized with each of their characters. Also, despite the other women in the shelter not having as much screen time, their performances were also captivating.


Shayda is a film that continues to be relevant for many families today. Despite it being heartbreaking, it gives hope to people in similar situations. It is a beautiful film about resilience and hope.

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