A Circassian Romeo and a Bedouin Juliet clandestinely meet at the center of a cross-cultural powder keg in the corny Jordanian costumer “Cherkess.” Writer-director Mohydeen Quandour, a Hollywood TV scripter in the ’70s, turns the arrival in Jordan of a small band of Russian emigres into a sodbusters-vs.-camelmen saga with a few half-hearted desert-romance twists. Despite much verbal huffing and puffing, rifle waving and scimitar rattling, “Cherkess” proceeds with an astounding lack of action. Quandour’s espousal of droning diplomacy over swashbuckling adventure should ensure the pic’s inglorious demise on its Nov. 4 bow at Gotham’s Quad Cinema.Pacifism and budgetary restrictions could account for some of this would-be epic’s most obvious shortcomings, but nothing really explains the tiny pile of burning wheat that represents the loss of a whole winter’s harvest. Thankfully, the lion’s share of the thesping goes to standout vets Mohamad al Abadi and Mohadeen Komakhov as a wily sheik and culture-straddling Russian peacekeeper, respectively, leaving the acting-challenged young lovers language-crossed and motionless. Indeed, “Cherkess” boasts little movement of any sort; galloping dramatic events are heralded but rarely shown, with most action transpiring between cuts or entirely offscreen.
A Sindika production. Produced by Mohydeen Quandour. Executive producer, Luba Balagova. Directed, written by Mohydeen Quandour.
Camera (color), Nikolay Troukhin; editor, Anas Shabsagh; music, Waleed Al Hasheem; art director, Jamil Awwad. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Nov. 1, 2011. Running time: 114 MIN.
Mohamad al Abadi, Mohadeen Komakhov, Azamat Bekov, Sahar Bishara, Ruslan Firov, Mohammad Al Dmoor. (Arabic, Circassian dialogue)