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Soon in the Theaters : "The Keeper : The Legend of Omar Khayyam"


By Darius Kadivar

When I first met film director producer Kayvan Mashayekh nearly two years ago it was in the early summer of 2003. He was transiting into Paris before heading on a trip to Turkey to meet potential film production companies and crew members before going to Bukhara and Samarkand, Uzbekistan to start shooting his first location scouting of what was to be an epic film set in 11th century Persia on the life and times of the famed epicurian Poet Omar Khayyam.



"Khayyam was one of my father's favorite poets" he told me. "The film is in a way a tribute to him, he passed away a few years ago and I feel it was my way of paying homage to a past which has contributed so greatly to my duality as an Iranian-American.  Before my father passed away from cancer 11 years ago, he cherished the moments when he could impart his wisdom and experience in life through poetry."


No film can be accomlished if one does not have some personal emotional involvement in the project. It requires a mixture of utopia in making it come true and a great deal of realism because it  involves money and a collective collaboration of technicians, decorators and actors just to name a few. In the case of an epic film it requires an army of technicians and  artists.


However Kayvan and his film are a living proof to all aspiring young directors  that nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself and your vision. An admirer of Stanley Kubrick, Mashayekh's film shares some of the American director's aesthetics in the way he films the courtrooms and throne room of Persian King Malik Shah (Moritz Bleibtreu from "Run Lola Run").  Bathing his subjects in candlelight, Mashayekh aspired to bring a sense of realism from a time and place Persians are passionate about when they discuss their history to others.  When he shows Omar Khayyam (Bruno Lastra) wandering helplessly through the battlefields which are reminiscent of some of the highlights in Kubrick's Historical epics such as "Barry Lyndon" or "Spartacus", one can get a glimpse of the impact of the masters of film that Kayvan was influenced by.


Now two years later on the eve of NowRuz ,the Persian New Year, Mashayekh and I meet again in the "Cafe Deux Magots" in the beautiful area of Saint Germain des Pres. The film is completed and with worries of post production behind, Mashayekh can contemplate with some philosophy of his work : "It was a brutally challenging experience, but as my father taught me long ago, Love is Sacrifice....if you love something strongly and deeply enough you have to sacrifice everything to get it...then and only then will it be worth it for you regardless of whether or not you succeed in the eyes of others."


He continued by adding "One of my goals in making this film shot on three continents (the US, Great Britain, and Uzbekistan) was to show to that Khayyam's philosophy of tolerance and humanity are vivid lessons to be followed in our post 9/11 world. I wanted to show that in the equally religiously intolerant 11th Century Persia, peaceloving and tolerant people like Khayyam existed who contributed so much in shaping Persian literature.  Subsequent positive Western perceptions of our land and culture may be traced to the Rubaiyat's translations. Also the choice of the Title "the Keeper" is to say that everyone in his or her life is The Keeper of a Story that really means something to its owner. In my film it is a young Iranian boy who discovers that his ancestor is the Legendary Persian Poet and who as the story unfolds will try to learn more about his life and times in order to perpetuate his legend " .



Mashayekh directs Hollywood Legend Vanessa Redgrave
on the set of the Keeper

It should be noted that Mashayekh's film is an entirely independent film, all the more remarkable that it is of an Epic Nature. Starring an International cast including Academy Award Winner and legendary British film Star Vanessa Redgrave (Julia, The Gathering Storm, Howards End, Girl, Interrupted, Mrs. Dalloway, Blow Up, Yanks), Croatian Rade Serbedzija (Mission Impossible, Eyes Wide Shut, Space Cowboys, Snatch,The Quiet American, Batman begins) and a new generation of young promising actors such as Bruno Lastra, Christopher Simpson, and Maria Espinosa, and new comer Adam Echahly as the little boy from the modern day in search of his ancestral roots.  Iranian Pop Star Andy Madadian, Shani Rigsbee and actor Darius Irannejat also have small cameos.


Noticed last year at the Cannes Film Market "The Keeper" is due in the summer starting in Los Angeles in June for its Limited US release before being launched in Europe.




This is the 3rd edition of Khayyams Quatrains. Published by Bernard
Quaritch in London in 1872.
Bound by Sangorski and Sutcliffe of London.
A similar edition and binding is thought to have sunk with the Titanic


Mashayekh was on his way to London to meet with the owner of the famous 100 year old bookbinding store, Sangorski and Sutcliffe for a cross promotional campaign of awareness for the most famous binding the store is known for around the world.  "The Great Omar" was the most exquisite and priceless edition of the Rubaiyat which, bejeweled with 1059 precious and semi-precious stones and took two years to bind in 1911.  It was lost on the Titanic in 1912 as it was being transported to America.


Mashayekh and I parted at the Cafe Deux Magots fingers crossed promising to meet again to talk about his other film projects which he hopes will include a Comedy as well as another Epic.


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