Noora Niasari’s fiction feature debut stars Zar Amir Ebrahimi — winner of Cannes’ Best Actress award for Holy Spider — as a survivor of domestic violence seeking a fresh start for her and her daughter.
Writer-director Noora Niasari’s fiction feature debut stars a dazzling Zar Amir Ebrahimi — winner of Cannes’ Best Actress award for Holy Spider (TIFF ’22) — as a survivor of domestic violence seeking a fresh start in a country far from her Iranian home.
Timed to coincide with the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere, Nowruz, or Persian New Year, is an opportunity for celebration and renewal. For Shayda (Ebrahimi), an Iranian living in Australia, the coming holiday only underlines the degree to which her world has been turned upside down.
She and her daughter Mona (Selina Zahednia) have just fled the life they shared with Hossein (Osamah Sami), Shayda’s husband and Mona’s father. Staying in a secret women’s shelter, Shayda undertakes legal proceedings to protect herself and Mona from Hossein’s abuse, but Hossein is granted unsupervised visits, giving rise to the worry that he’ll take Mona back to Iran. When interacting with Shayda, he projects only amiability, which she recognizes as a disguise for his terrifying rage. Shayda tries to resume some kind of normalcy, even going out at night and enjoying the attention of the smitten Farhad (Mojean Aria). But so long as Hossein has access to her or Mona, every day seems rife with danger.
Inspired by Niasari’s own childhood, Shayda is shot through with the immediacy of lived experience, unobtrusively registering action with a mixture of sensitivity, tension, and admiration. Recent events have proven the incredible resilience and courage of Iranian women, and Niasari’s film plays as a bold tribute to that indomitable spirit.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: mature themes, frightening scenes