Finding Culture Elsewhere

Apparently when John Jeffcoat first plugged his screenplay to the Hollywood heavyweights they loved the script, but balked at the idea of having an unproven director direct the movie. Thankfully Jeffcoat took his script to a small independent company (Shadow Catcher Entertainment) and the result is one of the more delightful, original, and funny movies that any company has put out in over a year.

Outsourced is a romantic, cross-cultural comedy about Todd Anderson. Todd is a manager at a Seattle-based customer call center until his job—and the entire office—is outsourced to Mumbai, India. It gets even more sinister when Todd is manipulated by his insensitive, greedy boss to go to India to train his replacement.

Ayesha Dharker as AshaThe movie does a wonderful job of presenting the beauty of India, and the cultural faux pas of many Americans traveling to such different and exotic cultures. While it is a movie about outsourcing and the subsequent consequences, it doesn’t preach, but does offer some thoughtful insight into some of the issues that result from outsourcing American jobs overseas, and the greed that appears to perpetuate it. Though I was “strongly encouraged” to think about outsourcing, the film presents the topic in a way that made me reconsider the practice, forcing me to look behind the symptom to the root of the issue: contentment.

So many of the humorous moments in this movie center on the differences between the two cultures. One of the funniest is the Indians’ use of the word “rubber” for an eraser; Todd’s subsequent explanation of condom is misunderstood to be something about condominiums. But probably the most obvious difference between our American culture and many other cultures around the world is our lack of contentment, which seemed to be the movie’s theme. The call center in Mumbai is called the “Fulfillment” center, and when Todd finally returns to Seattle, he has the wooden sign from the call center in his living room, which appears as a reminder to him that fulfillment doesn’t come in the form of paydays. He had left Seattle as an unfulfilled consumer, with a hectic lifestyle; he returns enlightened by the beauty of another culture. While he was a reluctant malcontent to begin with, he accepted the challenge of Asha (an attractive and witty Indian woman with whom he ended up falling in love) to see India from the natives’ eyes, and not the self-focused (and often tinted) American lens. It isn’t until his focus became less American, and his views began to change (as exhibited when he joined their festival of Holi, including his symbolic baptism in their holy river) that he begins to recognize his arrogance and lack of contentment. He allows himself to be taught by another culture, which is something that he clearly struggls with throughout the movie.

What is also fairly unique in this movie is that it doesn’t decry the evil of the American “Empire” while extolling the virtues of another culture. It merely gives us a glimpse of our own near-sightedness, and allows us to see some of both the sublime and the ugly of the Indian culture, too.

While the movie dives into issues of freedom, individual rights, and contentment, it allows you to laugh at yourself, and think clearly about what it means to be on this earth with six billion other people, and how it just may be possible that as enlightened as you may think you are, some of your practices may look barbaric to others. Outsourced does for cultural differences, with humor, what Crash did with intensity and violence.

Outsourced is rated PG-13 for some sexual content. It’s a fun movie for most of the family. I would agree, though, there are some adult/sexual situations that may be inappropriate for younger children.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Mike attended a film festival screening of Outsourced.