Yuichiro Sakashita might not be a director that is very well-known, but spectators who like comedies should put his movies (Kanagawa University of Fine Arts, Office of Film Research (2014), Errand (2017), Any Way the Wind Blows (2017), The Sunday Runoff (2021)) immediately on their to-watch-list. His latest short proves once again that he is a director worth following.
While Outsourcing starts off as a finely realized faux-documentary,in which HR-manager Miyagawa (Tomoya Maeno) of Joblink inc. introduces the benefits of outsourcing recruitment to a recruitment agency and the inn and outs of the recruitment process are explored, the narrative is suddenly turned on its head when Miyagawa finds out that Asami Takano (Sara Ogawa), the main focus in the infomercial and a new-recruit of Joblink inc., continues to take job-interviews under different names at other places.
Outsourcing is an effective and highly amusing satire of the recruitment process. The effectivity of the narrative largely depends on the nicely constructed narrative structure and the performance of Tomoya Maeno that breathes life into the twist that marks this structure.
Yet, that is not all. Sakashita’s satirical narrative, which gives the spectator an insight in the similarities and subtle differences between the Japanese recruitment process under corona situation (First round interview (remote), second round interview (remote), final interview (in person), informal meeting of new hires)and recruitment in other countries, only works so well because the narrative lays bare, with razor-sharp precision, the fundamental dynamic that underpins all kinds of recruitment.
Sakashita does not only highlight the robotic repetition that marks the recruitment process for the recruiter, but also the radically a-subjective nature of this process. Outsourcing, in fact, beautifully reveals how the recruitment process is highly imaginary, for better or worse.
The dimension of the imaginary is first touched upon by underlining the effect harsh questions by the recruiter has on the subject who is seeking a job. These questions either cause a kind of subjective paralysis – rendering the interviewee speechless – or complicates the carefully prepared answers of the interviewees. Moreover, some of the interviewer’s more cunning questions reveal how many answers within such interviewers are hollow, merely function as colourful wrapped but empty packages to sell oneself. These kinds of questions, by laying bare the lack of meaning of certain signifiers, radically disturb the image the interviewee is trying to convince the interviewer with.
The remote nature of many interview rounds, due to covid 19, also means that connection or mic problems can happen. While these problems are, in most cases, out of the interviewee’s control, these problems do, in one way or another, negatively influence the image he or she is trying to sell via the interview.
As the narrative unfolds, as we follow Takano’s trajectory, the centrality of the imaginary in the recruitment process becomes more and more profound. Sakashita beautifully shows that, as a job-seeker, it is not merely about convincing the Other of the company of one’s skills and qualities, but about duping this Other via acted acts and finely-wrapped signifiers. With a highly ironical touch, Sakashita also underlines that a recruitment agency is, after all is said and done, a business that thrives on profit.
The composition of Outsourcing is a straightforward affair. Yet, Sakashita’s composition, which relies on repeating certain shots, makes the comical element of the narrative potent and allows him to delivers the satire with a deliciously satisfying precision.
Outsourcing is a very satisfying satirical short. Sakashita does not only deliver a fun narrative with a nice twist, but a narrative that via its structure shows the uncomfortable truth about recruitment that anyone who has been stuck in the job-seeking process knows very well. The only thing that matters is the image.