Description from TIFF 2006 catalog by Thom Powers:
Corporations are often the subject of documentaries made by outsiders; very rarely do we get an inside look. But then OfficeTiger is an unusual company. Started by two Americans six years ago, it~s rapidly expanded to over thirty-five hundred employees on three continents, handling sensitive document processing for law firms, investment banks and consultancies around the world. Following a memorable “New Yorker” magazine profile of the company, the founders gave filmmaker Liz Mermin access to their largest office, located in Chennai, India. Her cameras roam everywhere from employee recruitment to the CEO~s boardroom. Only the client names have been bleeped out.
This is rich territory for Mermin, whose last film, The Beauty Academy of Kabul, llooked at Westerners going to Afghanistan to teach makeup and hairstyling skills. In Office Tigers, she once again finds a human comedy in the intersection of East and West.
Our main guide is Joseph Sigelman, the firm~s thirty-four-year-old co-founder and co-CEO, who has the cheerful, ambitious energy of a high-school class president. He runs motivational meetings like a coach revving up the team. His speaking style channels Dale Carnegie, using eclectic references to everything from existentialism to heavy metal to encourage his employees to excel.
The Indian staff is full of willing converts; they~re part of the generation whose lives are being transformed by the global marketplace. They take pride in twenty-hour workdays and fierce competition. “Be selfish,” says team manager Nikhil, instructing his underlings to delegate their work “~ so they have more time to plan their rise through the ranks. Is this a glorious meritocracy or the de-humanizing march of capitalism? Viewers can draw their own conclusions.
For those onscreen, there~s no time for doubts or second-guessing in this environment “~ and not much room for a personal life either. We see Sigelman at home still living out of his suitcase after several years in the city. For his birthday, the employees carefully plan a surprise party. After all the training to put work first, everyone still thrives on laughing, singing and making a human connection.
About the director:
Liz Mermin was born in Ithaca, New York and received an B.A. in literature from Harvard University and an M.A. in cultural anthropology from New York University. She has also been a Fulbright Scholar and a Fellow of the Whitney Independent Study Programme and of the Rockefeller Foundation. She is a producer, editor and director of documentaries, whose credits include the feature documentaries On Hostile Ground (01), The Beauty Academy of Kabul (04) and Office Tigers (06).
Visit the film’s official website: www.merminfilm.com/