Sundance Film Festival 2023 closes with three Mideast filmmakers winning awards


DUBAI: The 2023 Sundance Film Festival — which took its final bow this weekend in Park City, Utah, after its first in-person edition since 2020 — saw three Middle Eastern films winning awards, including “The Persian Version,” “Shayda” and “Animalia.”

Iranian American director Maryam Keshavarz’s “The Persian Version” won the Audience Award and Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award in the US Dramatic Competition. c

The film follows a large Iranian American family gathering for the patriarch’s heart transplant when a family secret catapults the estranged mother and daughter into an exploration of the past.

It was one of three films at Sundance this year to be directed by Iranian women, the others being “Joonam” and “Shayda.”

Noora Niasari’s “Shayda” took home the Audience Award in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. The film follows Shayda, a brave Iranian mother, who finds refuge in an Australian women’s shelter with her six-year-old daughter. But when her estranged husband re-enters their lives, Shayda’s path to freedom is jeopardized.

The third regional film to win an award at Sundance is “Animalia” by Morocco’s Sofia Alaoui, who took home the Special Jury Award for Creative Vision. The film follows a young mother-to-be as she experiences an alien invasion with a sense of dread that slowly turns into liberation.