Sundance 2023: “Shayda”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Domestic violence and femicide, unfortunately, strive in those countries where women’s rights do not exist. Men are allowed to dictate to their wives what they should do and how to live their life. If the woman dares to say no, they get a slap to the face, if not worse. What does the system do to prevent women (mostly) from being abused by their partners?

Shayda is an Iranian woman living in Australia. After being beaten up by her husband and sexually violated, the woman finds refuge in a women’s shelter with her scared-to-death daughter. She does her best to create a sense of normalcy for Mona; at least, that’s her main goal. Hoping to have a better Nowruz Celebration (Persian New Year), the woman is struck with news – a Judge grants Hossein unsupervised visitations without third-party exchange, which opens up an opportunity for Hossein to abuse his wife by using their daughter.

Yes, of course, Hossein appears to be a loving father, but he is more of a controlling person who wants to ensure that Shayda is still under his radar. For instance, Hossein tries to take Mona back to Iran but Shayda, understandably, is categorically against it. She knows that once the child is taken out of the country, she will not just lose her daughter, but if she returns to Iran for her daughter, she might lose her life. As the story unfolds, it becomes more heartbreaking, as you cannot help and think – why would the system allow people like Hossein to use the child and the legal system against their partners?

That being said, “Shayda” emphasises the importance of having an open discussion about domestic violence and what the system does to not let it happen again. It is up to one parent, which is Shayda in this case, to provide protection to her daughter because if not her, who else will do it?  But it is always hard to fight against manipulation, and Hossein is quite good at that. But one thing every abuser should remember, whether that abuser is a man or a woman – one person can take as much as they can, but once it involves a child, there will be hell unleashed on the perpetrator, ensuring no harm is ever done to the child again – especially when the harm is emotional.

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