In the West, Khayyam is best known for the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam most famously translated by a Victorian man of letters called Edward Fitzgerald. Published in 1859, the same year as Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, the film shows how and why the Rubaiyat became one of the most famous poems in the English language, attracting a who’s who of literary admirers including Thomas Hardy, T.S. Eliot and Arthur Conan Doyle.
Filmed in part across Iran during the run up to the 2009 election, the Genius of Omar Khayyam is presented by BBC Persian TV’s Sadeq Saba and includes contributions from major cultural figures rarely interviewed by the Iranian national media. They include singer and superstar Mohammad Reza Shajarian, Aydin Ardeshlu, Iran’s most celebrated painter and art historian, and the internationally renowned philosopher, Dariush Shayegan.
Omar Khayyam remains a significant figure in present day Iran, and the film explores why despite his apparent religious scepticism, Khayyam’s philosophy continues to resonate with modern Iranians.