Reviewed by Stephen Pye

Having shown several films that have been collecting awards, it was a change on Sunday to show the first film by the Australian Iranian director Noora Nisari. Even so this film itself was one of the audience favourites at the Sundance Film Festival.

Noora Nisari spent her formative years with her mother in a Women's refuge in Brisbane and that experience lies behind her poignant and disturbing debut as a writer/director.

Shayda has escaped her abusive husband with her six-year-old daughter and is living in a Women's shelter whilst she files for divorce. Her husband is granted access to his child each week for an afternoon. He is intent on returning to Iran once he has completed his medical exams and wants to take his wife and child with him.

The tucked in aspect ratio of the film has a psychological condensing effect thereby concentrating the drama, heightening tension and makes the audience share the feeling of being trapped.

The film leaves us in no doubt that whilst the husband is obsessive and dangerous Shayda does not wish to leave behind her own language and culture and is intent on passing this heritage on to her daughter.

Knowing that the characters in Shayda are based on real people heightens the film’s emotional stakes further. At the Q&A following the film's premiere on January 19, Niasari explained "For me, this material was always there. The story was always there. I had all my statements, everything, in a suitcase for years." All those statements, documents, and memories translate into an undeniably powerful film.

The film is set in 1995. It is, though, remarkably and unfortunately prescient, as male on female domestic abuse has seen a large increase in our own country and county recently, whilst help and places of refuge remain underfunded.