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2008-09 News

"Kashf: The Lifting of the Veil" debuts in New York

Ayesha Khan takes questions from the audience
By Sabrina Buckwalter

On March 23, Pakistani film, "Kashf: The Lifting of the Veil," made its New York debut at Columbia University—an event hosted by the South Asia Institute, Organization of Pakistani Students and the South Asia Association. Director Ayesha Khan presented the film that she also wrote and co-starred in to an overflowing crowd at Columbia's Lerner Hall.

"It's the first English language film out of Pakistan in the last 30 years," Khan said, explaining that in an effort to play the Pakistani film to wider audiences, Khan chose English. In Pakistan there are only 17 working theaters which predominately play Bollywood films from India, Khan said.

The film looks at the mystical form of Islam known as Sufism through the main character Armaghan and his hunt for knowledge. "We are all on a path of self-discovery," Khan said who majored in religion and theater at Mount Holyoke College. After a successful career in real estate development and consulting, Khan left for Pakistan to write the script after 9/11.

It wasn't until much later that shooting commenced and four years after Khan's initial trip the film was finally finished. Despite dwindling funding, problems with film equipment acquisition, shooting permission problems in Lahore, Khan persevered to complete the film.

It was when Ali MacGraw, a resident of Santa Fe, saw the film at the Santa Fe Film Festival, where it was nominated "Official Selection" in December 2008, that theater bookings began to tip. "I would have people come up to me at the film festival telling me that Ali MacGraw said I had to absolutely had to see this film," Khan said. Not long after that the film was getting scheduled to screen at art house theaterss around New Mexico.

In February 2008 she screened the promo at the Berlin Film Festival and in January 2009 she took the film to Cannes. The soundtrack has picked up interest from MTV's newest network called Iggy—an online portal to global pop music and culture and will be released on iTunes under the soundtrack category on March 27.

Coincidentally the New York premiere fell on Pakistan Day, also known as Pakistan's Republic Day. March 23 marks the 69th anniversary of the formal call for increased Muslim autonomy in British India.

For more information about other upcoming film screenings and news about the film, visit http://www.kashfthemovie.com
Outsourcing the news to India
By Sabrina Buckwalter

On January 27, 2009, the South Asia Institute, South Asian Journalists Association and The New York Press Club co-hosted a debate on editorial outsourcing to India. Titled, Outsourcing News: Boon or Boondoggle, the event brought together panelists that supported and opposed the growing trend of shifting media jobs to India.

James Macpherson, one of the panelists and publisher of PasadenaNow.com, made headlines for his websites use of India-based journalists. In November, Maureen Dowd profiled him in an article titled, A Penny for my thoughts? and in 2007 over 30 major publications covered his decision to begin hiring journalists in India to cover Pasadena city council meetings via webcast. Macpherson was joined by other panelists Robert Berkeley, CEO of Express KCS and Tony Joseph, CEO of Mindworks Global. Express KCS and Mindworks Global provide editorial production services from India to media companies around the world.

On the opposing side, it was panelist Anthony Ramirez, a 19-year New York Times veteran who was most vocal about his enmity to editorial outsourcing, referring to James Macpherson and the other panelists as, Lucifer and his minions. Bruce Lambert, a 21-year Times veteran and Phil Pilato, editor and news writer for 1010 WINS radio joined Ramirez in opposition to the idea.

The idea of sending editorial procedures to India is controversial because of the implications it has for job loss and media quality. However it is a business model that succeeds in many industries, a trend we are now seeing in the media business. The difference is the trend now directly affects the same people who provided news about outsourcingthe people in media.

On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable, Ramirez said, quoting the famous comments made by Stewart Brand in 1984. Ramirez continued, The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.

Reuters, one of the largest news wire companies in the world, made getting the news out more cost-effective by opening up a major bureau in Bangalore, India in 2004. They hired over 100 Indian journalists to cover U.S. financial news. Other U.S. based news organizations have sent particular business functions to India. According to the BBC, the Columbus Dispatch outsourced 90 jobs in advertising design to Affinity Express in Pune, India and the Dallas Morning News outsourced their IT computer support to India. According to Express KCS, one of the companies represented on the panel, the San Jose Mercury News has outsourced its advertising production to them.

How do transnational offices stay connected? Berkeley, the CEO of Express KCS has communication software installed on the computers in his British and Indian offices. Property Finder Publishing, one of his clients, is a publication out of London whose layout and production is completed in India. Berkeley says his Indian employees are, More aware of the value of a property in Mayfair London than many people who live in London. If they see a property in Hampstead North London thats going for less than 350,000 they know theres probably a problem and what do they do? They press a button and Alastair Moxey the editor appears in a Skype window. Theyre virtually in the same room Berkeley said.

The event ended amicably, with panelists shaking hands and agreeing that the issue of editorial outsourcing to India is ripe for more debate.

Panelists prepare to debate. From left: James Macpherson, Tony Joseph, Robert Berkeley, Professor Sree Sreenivasan, Bruce Lambert and Phil Pilato.
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