Earnest indie "Ocean of Pearls" was inspired by first-time helmer Sarab S. Neelam's experiences as a Canadian-Indian Sikh shocked by the inequities of the U.S. healthcare system during a residency.

Earnest indie “Ocean of Pearls” was inspired by first-time helmer Sarab S. Neelam’s experiences as a Canadian-Indian Sikh shocked by the inequities of the U.S. healthcare system during a residency. But this mix of tepid hospital intrigue plus underdeveloped cultural/relationship conflicts feels like a routine TV episode stretched to feature length, with little dramatic urgency or cinematic style to render its good intentions compelling. Slated for June release Stateside, it will find easier berths on the smallscreen.

Amrit (Omid Abtahi) is a brilliant young surgeon whose development of a solution lengthening the shelf life of harvested organs attracts an offer to head a Detroit hospital’s new transplant center. But upon arrival, he discovers a senator’s yuppie son (Todd Babcock) also vying for the job, and his own practice of wearing a turban (to respect his dad’s staunch traditionalism) stirs racial biases. He’s appalled to discover that payment ability, rather than need, can determine the fates of patients in terminal crisis. Meanwhile, he wavers between the g.f. he left behind (Navi Rawat) and a flirtatious co-worker (Heather McComb). Perfs are OK, obvious plot points telegraphed, design/tech contributions generic.

Ocean of Pearls

Production

An Echo Lake release of a Lighthouse Pictures presentation. Produced by Sarab S. Neelam, Jaspar Kaur Burstein. Executive producers, Jeff Dowd, Jim Burstein. Directed by Sarab S. Neelam. Screenplay, V. Prasad, from a story by Neelam, Prasad.

Crew

Camera (color), Lon Stratton; editor, Jason Stewart; music, Pinar Toprak; production designer, Mary Ellen Murphy. Reviewed at San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival (competing), March 16, 2009. English, Hindi dialogue. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

Omid Abtahi, Heather McComb, Ron Canada, Navi Rawat, Ajay Rawat, Todd Babcock, Dennis Haskins, KT Thangavelu, Rena Owen, Brenda Strong.

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