First-time filmmaker Kayvan Mashayekh, a Houston-based Iranian emigre, weaves together the present-day story of an Iranian immigrant family living in Texas and the story of 11th-century Persian mathematician, astronomer and poet Omar Khayyam, author of The Rubaiyat. Young Kamram (Adam Echahly), a thoroughly Americanized youngster, loves soccer, rap music and his older brother, Nader (Puya Behinaein), who lies gravely ill with leukemia in a Houston hospital. Nader is a "keeper," the member of his family charged with preserving their culture's rich oral tradition. During Kamram's daily visits, Nader enthralls his brother with the story of Omar Khayyam (Bruno Lastra). Even as a child, young Omar (Daniel Black), the son of a poor tent-maker, shows an astonishing curiosity about the stars and a startling gift for complex mathematics. His mother (Sarah Hadaway) persuades the scholarly imam Muaffak (Rade Serbedzija) to take him on as a pupil, and Omar soon outstrips his master. The imam introduces Omar to Hassan Sabbah (Christopher Simpson), the son of a politically connected warrior. Both young men love slave girl Darya (Marie Espinosa) and join forces to find Darya when she's sold to a merchant. Their quest fails, and Hassan retreats into religious zealotry while Omar pens poems to Darya and buries himself in research. Word of his scholarly renown reaches pleasure-loving sultan Malikshah (Moritz Bleibtreu), who summons him to join Muaffak as a court astrologer. Though Omar rejects astrology as superstition, Muaffak persuades him to use his intellect and powers of persuasion to advise Malikshah, whose empire is beset by Christian invaders from without and radical Muslim extremists from within including Hassan's growing sect. Meanwhile, in the present, Nader dies and Kamram concocts an audacious plan to reconnect his family to their Iranian roots and learn the end of the story his brother was unable to finish. If good intentions and phenomenal resourcefulness made great cinema, this film would be one for the ages: Mashayekh raised funds independently and was location-scouting in September 2001. Forced to finish the project amid an atmosphere of post-9/11 intolerance, Mashayekh shot in Uzbekistan and still managed to secure the participation of some fairly high-powered actors, including Serbedzija, Bleibtreu, Diane Baker and Vanessa Redgrave. But while sumptuously beautiful, the film is often stilted and undermined by some painfully amateurish performances that no good intentions can smooth over.
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- Released: 2005
- Rating: PG
- Review: First-time filmmaker Kayvan Mashayekh, a Houston-based Iranian emigre, weaves together the present-day story of an Iranian immigrant family living in Texas and the story of 11th-century Persian mathematician, astronomer and poet Omar Khayyam, author of The… (more)