Does a fish know it's surrounded by water? Not until the moment it finds itself on the deck of a boat.
The Ashland Independent Film Festival and Coming Attractions Theatres has brought back "Outsourced," an audience favorite during last spring's 2008 indie festival. It will open Friday at the Varsity Theatre with two special screenings at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. that will benefit AIFF.
First things first: Outsourcing is a controversial topic, often touched on during the primary and presidential campaigns.
The film "Outsourced," however, though it sounds like it should be a documentary, is a romantic comedy that quickly leaves the discussion of globalization behind and focuses instead on the trials inherent in sending a young, very American, midlevel manager from Seattle, Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton), to India to oversee a call center where the newly hired locals take catalogue orders over the phone.
Culture is all around us, comprised of countless cues and mannerisms, subtle and not so subtle modes of communication, mores, taboos and so much more. We breathe it in like air, or swim through it. Does a fish know it's surrounded by water? Not until the moment it finds itself on the deck of a boat.
And that is what happens to Todd. With little understanding or preparation, he is essentially lifted out of his cultural comfort zone and dropped into the baroque milieu of India, abruptly finding himself a stranger in a strange land.
And so "Outsourced" quickly becomes a film about two very distinct cultures meeting in the context of a small, cinderblock building on the outskirts of Mumbai, where a group of quirky and charming workers talk on the phone to people in Indiana.
Todd wants his Indian employees to be more American when taking orders, and the employees want Todd to be more, well, Indian. One such employee is Asha ( Ayesha Dharker), a lovely young Indian woman who quickly becomes indispensable to Todd as he navigates all the layers of his new community. His experiences are simultaneously maddening and wonderful as he learns about a culture that is enigmatic, seemingly impenetrable and in stark contrast to his own.
While Todd confronts India, he also confronts himself. And the beauty of "Outsourced" is that it captures, in a wonderfully nuanced way, his gradual shift in perspective and understanding.
This is an engaging and entertaining film and, if missed last spring, well, here is another chance.
Tickets are discounted 25 percent for AIFF members and are available at the Varsity Theatre box office, 166 N. Main St. For more information or to see a film trailer of "Outsourced," visit ashlandfilm.org.