Iranian actress Zar Amir-Ebrahimi (Tehran Taboo, Morgen sind wir frei) is set to star in Iranian-Australian writer-director Noora Niasari feature film directorial debut, Shayda.
Amir-Ebrahimi is set to play a young Iranian mother who finds refuge in an Australian women’s shelter with her six-year-old daughter during Nowrooz, the Iranian New Year. The film will see the mother and daughter seek their freedom with the help of the shelter’s strong community, ready to enter a new world of possibilities, though they are only met with the same violence that they were attempting to escape. Along with Amir-Ebrahimi, the cast will also include Osamah Sami (Ali’s Wedding), Leah Purcell (The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson), Mojean Aria (The Enforcer), Jillian Nguyen (Expired), and Rina Mousavi (Alexander) in starring roles. Amir-Ebrahimi is currently attending the Cannes Film Festival with Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider which is screening In Competition.
Niasari is a celebrated and award-winning writer and director, having been nominated for ‘Best Short Film’ at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) in 2015 for her short film Simorgh and again in 2017 for Waterfall. She has also won the ‘Best Director Documentary’ at the Beirut International Film Festival for the 2011 short film Beirut, Under the Bridge. She also wrote and directed the 2020 short Tâm. Production is scheduled to begin on July 11 in Australia.
Heads of production on Shayda will include cinematographer and Niasari’s closest collaborator Sherwin Akbarzadeh (Stories From Oz). The film is also produced by Vincent Sheehan (The Hunter, Jasper Jones, Animal Kingdom, Lore) through his new production company Origma 45. Cate Blanchett, Andrew Upton, and Coco Francini at Dirty Films (Apples, Carol, Little Fish) are executive producers. “Shayda is a powerful, timely, and important story to be telling and Noora‘s unique Iranian/Australian voice as a director will be a potent combination,” Sheehan commented. “I am thrilled to be working with such a quality stable of producers and market partners with a shared passion and commitment to backing Noora and her story.”
Dirty Films also provided a statement about the film, saying, “We first encountered Noora’s talent watching her short films, The Phoenix and Tâm. We were blown away by her precise, emotionally-driven filmmaking and her capacity to draw out gripping performances. We are excited to be working alongside Vincent again to help Noora fulfill her bold and distinct vision for Shayda.”
The film received major production investment from Screen Australia in association with The 51 Fund and was financed with support from VicScreen and the MIFF Premiere Fund, while local distribution in Australia and New Zealand will be handled by Madman Entertainment and HanWay Films has come on board to handle international sales and distribution, UTA Independent Film Group is representing the U.S. sale. Caitlin Gold, Lindsay Lanzillotta, Naomi McDougall Jones, Lois Scott, and Nivedita Kulkarni also serve as executive producers on behalf of the 51 Fund.
Screen Australia’s Head of Content Grainne Brunsdon said; “Rising talent Noora Niasari has created a well-crafted script, vibrant characters, and an authentic world and Screen Australia is delighted to support her debut feature through development and into production. Shayda offers a unique perspective on a story with universal themes of survival and the cost of freedom.”
Shayda does not have a release date or release window currently announced.