DVD (Ocean Park Entertainment, $24.95); PG-13; Sept. 2
When Western Novelty, a distributor of kitschy products, decides to outsource customer service from Seattle, manager Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton) must go to India — "Eight heads for the price of one!" his boss crows — to train his replacement in this funny gem of a workplace romantic comedy.
Initially wary and bewildered by culture shock, Todd gets his groove back with the help of call-wrangler Asha (Ayesha Dharker), a quick study who wonders aloud why Americans are so upset to hear an accent on the phone when they are buying patriotic knick-knacks made in China.
Seattle-based director and co-writer John Jeffcoat researched what life is like on the other end of the phone by visiting call centers in Bangalore and by collecting stories from a source who does training for Microsoft.
One of Jeffcoat's initial aims was to excite Americans about investigating other cultures, but he's been surprised by the attention the film has drawn in the business world and academia.
"I spoke recently at the University of Washington to a group of business students who are about to go to India," Jeffcoat says. "And ShadowCatcher (the film's independent production company) has been producing a curriculum to send to schools because there was an interest in it."
The movie also caught the eye of NBC. Jeffcoat is currently co-writing a pilot for a TV version, which he's billing as a global workplace comedy featuring ex-pats from different companies working under one Indian call-center roof.
Sept. 12 (New York and Los Angeles), Sept. 19 (elsewhere, check www.flowthefilm.com for theaters); Unrated; Oscilloscope Pictures
Irena Salina's alarming documentary identifies multiple threats to Earth's most precious resource: water.
The French-born filmmaker spent five years interviewing experts, activists and corporate representatives about topics affecting both poorer countries, such as the deadly lack of safe drinking water and the polarizing privatization of the water supply, and wealthier ones like the United States, where scarcity is a growing concern and where the bottled-water craze continues despite very little regulation and environmental concerns.
The film is unabashedly anti-privatization, decrying contracts massive companies like Nestle, Veolia Environnement (spun off from Vivendi) and Suez Environnement have to distribute drinking water in countries such as Bolivia and South Africa. These firms, the argument goes, have a primary interest in profit, not in ensuring safe and affordable access to water.
Women, Leadership, and Politics: A Rising Tide?
Now on PBS, Sept. 19, 8:30 p.m. ET (check local listings or PBS.org)
Last fall, as senior correspondent for Now on PBS, Maria Hinojosa moderated an event that brought together more than 100 current and former female heads of state to discuss security. She looked around the room and decided the time was ripe to explore how women relate to power.
In the resulting documentary, Hinojosa sits down with Michelle Bachelet, the Chilean president who has made social and economic issues a priority in her country. In another segment, former New Hampshire governor Jeanne Shaheen, who is vying for a Senate seat, recalls being referred to by a newspaper as Betty Crocker when she first ran for governor.
Perhaps most surprising is Hinojosa's visit to Rwanda, where women make up nearly half of parliament.
Lifting up other women contributes to their power, Hinojosa says.
"When I came up with this idea, I raised every last dollar to do this project from women donors around the country," said Hinojosa.
"To me, that's huge. Because it is women who have financial power who are then supporting me, a woman in the media, to help tell these stories about women."
Subtitle: What Millions of People are Doing Online and Why It Matters By Bill Tancer (Hyperion, $25.95, Sept. 2)
We are what we click, writes research guru Bill Tancer of Hitwise, an online market research company. Tancer has access to the usage behavior of more than 10 million Internet users, a veritable gold mine of data that can be parsed in interesting — and valuable — ways.
Do Internet searches for Viagra spike after spam blasts touting the drug? Yes. Are we more afraid of death or flying? "Flying" is the No. 1 search term from queries containing "fear of," while "death" is fifth, after clowns and intimacy.