Sony Pictures Classics Acquires Sundance Audience Award Winner ‘Shayda’

Noora Niasari’s feature film debut, executive produced by Academy Award® winner Cate Blanchett’s Dirty Films, won the Audience Award in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at this year’s festival 

NEW YORK Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they have acquired all media rights in North America, Latin America, Benelux, Eastern Europe, Portugal, the Middle East, and Turkey to SHAYDA, written and directed by Noora Niasari in her feature film debut. SHAYDA earned rave reviews upon its world premiere last month at the Sundance Film Festival and took home the Audience Award in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. 

An Origma 45 production, the film is produced by Vincent Sheehan and Niasari in association with Dirty Films, Parandeh Pictures, and The 51 Fund and executive produced by Academy Award® winner Cate Blanchett, Andrew Upton, Coco Francini, Caitlin Gold, Lindsay Lanzillotta, Lois Scott, Naomi McDougall Jones, and Nivedita Kulkarni. It 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. SHAYDA stars Zar Amir Ebrahimi (2022 Cannes’ Best Actress winner for HOLY SPIDER), Osamah Sami, Leah Purcell, Jillian Nguyen, Mojean Aria, Selina Zahednia, and Rina Mousavi. 

In the film, Shayda, an Iranian woman living in Australia, finds refuge in a women’s shelter with her 6-year-old daughter, Mona. Having fled her husband, Hossein, and filed for divorce, Shayda struggles to maintain normalcy and create a new home for Mona. Buoyed by the approach of Nowruz (Persian New Year), Shayda tries to forge a fresh start with new and unfettered freedoms. But when a judge grants Hossein visitation rights, he reenters their life, fueling Shayda’s apprehension that he’ll attempt to take Mona back to Iran. Drawn from personal experiences, Iranian-Australian filmmaker Niasari’s powerful SHAYDA is a beautifully crafted, poetic vérité portrayal of courage, compassion and the healing properties of community. Actress Ebrahimi captures the vulnerability and confliction, but also the radiant soul of an Iranian woman boldly reclaiming her human rights. 

“I have held the deepest admiration for Sony Pictures Classics since childhood. For my debut feature to be distributed by them is a dream. I know they will set the stage for a wonderful release, so that audiences worldwide can experience the emotional depth and power of SHAYDA,” said Niasari. 

“Buoyed by the audience response and engagement at Sundance, Sony Pictures Classics is the perfect partner to now present Noora’s nuanced, compelling and important story to new audiences in the US and beyond,” added Sheehan. 

“Dirty Films is proud to champion filmmakers with stories that are both timely and timeless. Noora Niasari’s intensely personal story is precisely that,” said Dirty Films. “Now in the wake of the seismic revolution happening half a world away, SHAYDA resonates these domestic personal emotions into a global cultural conversation. We are thrilled to be in partnership with our friends at Sony Pictures Classics to share Noora's story with audiences around the world."  

"We created The 51 Fund to support and amplify the kinds of female voices that have been overlooked for far too long. Noora's talent and story are gifts to the world, and we could not be more proud that audiences everywhere will now get to enjoy them, elevated by the Sony Pictures Classics brand,” said The 51 Fund.

Sony Pictures Classics added, “With SHAYDA, Noora Niasari makes an impressive feature debut. Her characters are beautifully relatable and her relationships formed with honesty, humanity, and the warmth that can come from family and community. It is our pleasure to bring this story and Noora to audiences everywhere.” 

The deal was negotiated with United Talent Agency. HanWay Films will be selling the remaining international territories and screening SHAYDA to buyers in the upcoming EFM. Metropolitan have come on board as the French distributor. Local distribution in Australia and New Zealand will be handled by Madman Entertainment. Niasari is represented at United Talent Agency and Granderson Des Rochers, LLP.

Michael Barker and Tom Bernard serve as co-presidents of Sony Pictures Classics—an autonomous division of Sony Pictures Entertainment they founded with Marcie Bloom in January 1992—which distributes, produces, and acquires independent films from around the world.  Barker and Bernard have released prestigious films that have won 41 Academy Awards® (37 of those at Sony Pictures Classics) and have garnered 186 Academy Award® nominations (160 at Sony Pictures Classics) including Best Picture nominations for THE FATHER, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, WHIPLASH, AMOUR, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, AN EDUCATION, CAPOTE, HOWARDS END, and CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. 

Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE's global operations encompass motion picture production, acquisition, and distribution; television production, acquisition, and distribution; television networks; digital content creation and distribution; operation of studio facilities; and development of new entertainment products, services.