One of my favorite films from the Toronto International Film Festival and one of indieWIRE’s 2005 Best Undistributed Films, Ashim Ahluwalia’s John and Jane screens tonight in New York in the New Directors/New Film series. While the film was picked up recently by HBO Documentary Films, so it’s technically no longer one of the “undistributed” orphans, it’s doubtful that the film will see much theatrical screen time before it’s broadcast on HBO in 2007 — with HBO’s new more awkward revised name John and Jane Toll-Free.
It’s too bad, because the film — a very stylized documentary about stylized people — is definitely made for a wide-screen. Reporting from Toronto 2005, I wrote, “Without any direct comment, Ahluwalia’s camera captures the workers’ strange surreal lives as they leave their small cramped flats for the clean, immaculate hallways of their offices and take on fake American names to interact with their customers. More intriguing and alarming, however, is the workers’ ‘cultural training’ — where they learn about ‘the pursuit of happiness’ and other distinctly ‘American’ fundamentals.. . . Utterly blind to the cultural imperialism overtaking their existence, the film’s subjects are among globalization’s most tragic offspring.”