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Three Middle Eastern Filmmakers Won Awards At The 2023 Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Film Festival 2023 came to a close last weekend. Having taken place in Park City, Utah in America, this year’s edition was the first “in-person” event since 2020 and the COVID-19 breakout at the time. Moreover, before closing out, the festival honored three Middle Eastern films, which each won awards: “The Persian Version,” “Shayda” and “Animalia.”

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“The Persian Version” is a movie by Iranian American director, Maryam Keshavar, and won the Audience Award and Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award in the US Dramatic Competition. The film is about an Iranian American family who come together for the patriarch of the family’s heart transplant. With the family gathering, a secret pushes the estranged mother and daughter to dig up the past.

It was one of three films at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival to be directed by Iranian women, as well as the others, “Joonam” and “Shayda.”

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Another Iranian movie, Noora Niasari’s “Shayda” took home the Audience Award in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. The film follows a robust Iranian mother, Shayda, who goes to seek refuge in an Australian women’s shelter with her six-year-old daughter. However, the story takes a turn when her estranged husband re-enters their lives and Shayda’s journey to finding herself and her freedom is threatened.

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The third Middle Eastern film to win an award at the Sundance film festival is “Animalia,” which took home the Special Jury Award for Creative Vision. The film by Moroccan film maker, Sofia Alaoui is focused on a young pregnant woman as she experiences an alien invasion that fills her with fear and dread, but eventually begins to turn into something that feels liberating.

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