Sunless Shadows

By Mehrdad Oskouei

Original title – Sunless Shadows
International title – Sunless Shadows


We follow the lives of a group of teenage girls serving time in an Iranian juvenile detention center for the murder of a male family member. With the camera as witness, they reveal their innermost thoughts, feelings and doubts.


In an Iranian juvenile detention center, a group of adolescent girls are serving time for having murdered their father, husband or another male family member. Filmmaker Mehrdad Oskouei managed to build up a remarkable relationship with these inmates, whose frank conversations and playful interactions he observes, and who gradually open up about the consequences of, and sometimes the reasons for, their terrible act.
Mehrdad occasionally leaves them alone with the camera, allowing it to become a means for them to address both their victims and their accomplices, three of the girls having killed their fathers with the help of their mothers. The mothers await execution elsewhere.
Unlike their mothers’ somber pall, the atmosphere in the girls’ living quarters, shared cell with teen-bedroom feel, classroom and grass-lined courtyard where a brood of ducklings scamper about, seems almost carefree. It gradually becomes apparent, however, that apart from being a prison, this closed, all-female environment is also a shelter from an aggressively male-dominated society.


Written & Directed by – Mehrdad Oskouei
Director of Photography – Mehdi Azadi
Editing – Amir Adibparvar
Original Music – Afshin Azizi
Sound Designer – Mahmoud Khorsand
Sound Recordist – Parsa Karimi
Production Manager – Vahid Hajiloei
Executive Producer – Siavash Jamali

Producer – Mehrdad Oskouei
Production Company – Oskouei Films 

Co-Producer – Carsten Aanonsen
Co-Production Company – Indie Film
Involved TV Channels – NRK (Norway)

Supported by:

  • Development and post-production fund of IDFA bertha fund, Netherlands
  • Bertha Foundation, UK
  • Sundance Documentary fund, USA
  • Sørfond, Norwegian South Film Fund


Sunless Shadows is distributed in the United States of America and Canada by The Cinema Guild 

Sunless Shadows is distributed in France by Les Films du Whippet

Sunless Shadows – SCREEN DAILY

Sunless Shadows – SCREEN DAILY │ News

Sunless Shadows – Variety
Variety sat down with Oskouei prior to the film’s world premiere.

Sunless Shadows – aVoir-aLire

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Awards & Festivals

  • Winner of: ‘Best Director Award – Mehrdad Oskouei’ – 32nd IDFA, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2019.
  • Winner of: ‘Honorable Mention’ – 17th Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Missoula, Montana USA, 2020. 
    ‘For exposing the desperation and resiliency of young Iranian women serving time at a juvenile detention center, and the unlikely opportunity that their incarceration allows them as they form tight friendships and are able to speak freely about their regrets and hopes’.
  • Winner of: ‘SILVER HORN Best Director’ – for the Film on Social Issue.
  • Winner of: ‘Student Jury Award’ – 60th Krakow Film Festival, Poland, 2020.
  • Winner of: ‘Best Film’ – 8th CinéDOC-Tbilisi International Documentary Film Festival, Georgia, 2020.
  • Winner of: ‘Jury’s Special Mention’ – ZagrebDox-International Documentary Film Festival, Croitia, 2020.
  • Winner of: ‘Best Film – Cinema Iran 2020 Award’ dedicated to Felicetta Ferraro – 11th Middle East Now Film Festival, Florence, Italy, 2020.
  • Winner of: ‘Golden Silk Road Best Documentary Award’ – 7th Silk Road International Film Festival, Xi’an, China, 2020.
  • Winner of: ‘Human Rights Award – Bronze Goal’ – 12th MILLENIUM International Documentary Film Festival, Brussels, Belgium, 2020.
  • Winner of: ‘Grand Prix Nanook – Jean Rouch’ – 39th Jean Rouch IFF, Paris, France.
  • Winner of: ‘International Jury Prize’ for theBest Film’ – 13th This Human World International Human Rights Film Festival, Vienna, Austria.
  • Winner of: ‘Honourable Mention – 30th Films from the South Festival, Norway, 2020.
  • Winner of: ‘Best Documentary Spiritual Film Section’ – 19th Dhaka Intrnational Film Festival (DIFF), Bangladesh, 2021.
  • Winner of: ‘Best Film – Empire of Forgiveness Section’ – 7th Budapest International Documentary Film Festival, Hungary, 2021
  • Winner of: ‘Alternative Oscar’ for ‘Best Documentary‘ by Reverse Shot, newsletter of the Museum of the Moving Image, New York, United States.
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  • 32nd IDFA, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, The Netherlands. November 20-December 01, 2019.
  • 43rd Göteborg Film Festival, Sweden. January 24-February 03, 2020.
  • DocPoint Helsinki Documentary Film Festival, Finland. January 27-February 02, 2020. ‘Competitive’ section.
  • DocPoint Tallinn International Documentary Film Festival, Estonia. January 29-February 02, 2020.
  • 18th MoMA’s festival Doc Fortnight, New York, USA. February 05-18, 2020.
  • 17th Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Missoula, Montana USA. February 14-23, 2020. ‘Competitive’ section.
  • 17th True/False, Columbia, Missouri, USA. March 05-08, 2020. ‘Competitive’ section.
  • 43rd Portland International Film Festival, Columbia, USA. March 06-15, 2020.
  • 18th International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH), Geneva, Switzerland. March 06-15, 2020. ‘Competitive’ section
  • CPH:DOX, Copenhagen, Denmark. March 18-29, 2020. ‘Highlights-Justice’ section.
  • DOK.fest – Inter. Dokumentarfilmfestival Muenchen, Germany. May 06-17, 2020. ‘Competitive’ section.
  • 60th Krakow Film Festival, Poland. May 31-June 07, 2020. ‘Competitive’ section.
  • New Zealand’s Oscar-qualifying premiere International Documentary Film Festival.
    Auckland: June 12-July 05, 2020 | Wellington: June 11-21, 2020.
  • 69th Melbourne International Film Festival, Australia. August 06-23, 2020. ‘Documentaries’ section.
  • DokuFest/Human Rights Dox, Prizren, Kosovo. August 07-15, 2020. ‘Competitive’ section.
  • 10th Open City Documentary Festival, London, UK. September 09-15, 2020.’Competitive’ section.
  • 15th Batumi Art House International Film Festival, Batumi, Georgia. September 13-20, 2020.
  • 8th CinéDOC-Tbilisi International Documentary Film Festival, Georgia. August 30-September 30, 2020. ‘Competitive’ section.
  • 12th DMZ International Documentary Film Festival, South Korea. September 17-24, 2020.’Competitive’ section
  • 16th ZURICH FILM FESTIVAL, Switzerland. September 24-October 04, 2020.’BORDER LINES’ section.
  • ZagrebDox – International Documentary Film Festival, Croitia. October 04-11, 2020. ‘Competitive’ section.
  • 11th Middle East Now Film Festival , Florence, Italy. October 06-11, 2020. ‘Opening Film’.
  • 7th Silk Road International Film Festival, Xi’an, China. October 11-16, 2020. ‘Competitive’ section.
  • 15th Batumi Art House International Film Festival, Batumi, Georgia. Screening date: October 19, 2020.
  • 12th MILLENIUM International Documentary Film Festival, Brussels, Belgium. October 16-25, 2020. ‘Competitive’ section.
  • 35th Unabhaengiges FilmFest Osnabrueck, Germany. October 21-25, 2020. ‘The Peace Film Award’-Competitive’ section.
  • 20th Film Festival Women’s Worlds, Terre des Femmes, Berlin, Germany. October 28-November 04, 2020.
  • 30th Message to Man Internationa Film Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia. November 03-08, 2020. ‘Panorama’ section.
  • 39e Festival international Jean Rouch, Paris, France. November 13-21, 2020. ‘Competitive’ section.
  • Sharjah Film Platform 3 (SFP3)/Sharjah Art Foundation, United Arab Emirates. November 14-21, 2020.
  • 30th Films from the South Festival, Norway. November 26-December 06, 2020. ‘Competitive’ section.
  • 20th WATCH DOCS International Film Festival, Warsaw, Poland. December 04-13, 2020. ‘Competitive’ section.
  • 13th ‘this human world’-International Human Rights Film Festival, Vienna, Austria. December 03-13, 2020. ‘International Competitive’ section.
  • 9th Persian International Film Festival, Sydney, Australia. December 03-06, 2020.
  • 19th Dhaka Intrnational Film Festival (DIFF), Bangladesh. January 16-24, 2021. ‘Spiritual Films’ section
  • 7th Budapest International Documentary Film Festival, Hungary. March 01-07, 2021. ‘Empire of Forgiveness’- ‘Competitive’ section. 
  • International Women’s Day programme, Cinema RESTART, Zagreb, Croitia. March 05-07, 2021.
  • Bertha DocHouse, London, UK. March 11, 2021.
  • Cannes Cinéma, zoom sur le cinema iranien, Cannes, France. October 28, 2021.
  • Festival Nouvelles Images Persanes -Vitré, France. November 10-14, 2021.
    Avant Premièere : November 13, 2021 / 14h00 – Centre Culturel.
  • Enfance Dans Le monde – Les 7 Parnassiens, Paris, France. November 18 & 19, 2021. ‘Competitive’ section.
  • 40th Festival international Jean Rouch, Paris, France. November 18-28, 2021.
    Avant Première : 28 novembre 2021 / 16:00 – 17:30 Musée de l’Homme.
  • 17ème Festival International du Film d’Evreux, France. Cinéma Pathé Evreux. November 30-December 04, 2021. ‘Competitive’ section.
  • 5th Slemani International Film Festival, Kurdistan region, Iraq. December 17-23, 2021.
  • 26ème Festival International du Cinéma d’Auteur de Rabat, Maroc. February 11-19, 2022. ‘Competitive’ section.
  • Festival du Film de Femmes ‘Cine Donne’, Bastia, Corsica. April 06-10, 2022.
  • Event organised by ‘Kulturverein Hamneshast e.V.’ at the Cinema Metropolis, Hamburg, Germany. November 27, 2022.
  • 9th Budapest International Documentary Festival, BIDF, Houngary. January 21-29, 2023.