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Shirkers

Status
Type
Producers Sandi Tan / Chiemi Karasawa

Synopsis

In 1991, a mysterious American named Georges Cardona taught a film-making class in the tiny island nation of Singapore. As his 18-year-old student, Sandi Tan developed an intense friendship with him based on a shared obsession with the French New Wave.

The next year, Sandi and two equally mad classmates—Sophie and Jasmine—pooled together resources to bring to life a surreal road movie Sandi wrote called Shirkers. Georges directed.

Cast and crew working gratis, they captured overlooked corners of Singapore in 16mm Kodak, from mannequin shops to an abandoned quarry. Sandi played the lead, S, a 16-year-old would-be murderess/savior. This was a peak experience for the young cast and crew. The clapper boy was just 13!

When shooting wrapped, Georges took away all the negatives. Sandi, Sophie, and Jasmine were young and volatile and their friendship imploded.

As time passed, an emotional amnesia evolved over the subject. Meanwhile, Shirkers was whispered about as a kind of myth.

20 years later, Sandi had become a novelist in California. Out of the blue, she received an email from Georges’ wife in New Orleans: 70 film cans labeled Shirkers had been uncovered… after Georges’ sudden death.

Transferred to 2K, the footage was eye-popping: the camera had caught Singapore—and the cast—at their last moment of innocence, before the city-state’s fevered transformation into a glass-and-steel banking powerhouse and before everybody involved dispersed into adult lives across the globe.

In 2015, Sandi and DP Iris Ng (Stories We Tell) traveled to Singapore, upstate New York, Massachusetts and New Orleans, tracking down the main players in Shirkers, and reopening old wounds.

Shirkers traces the dream logic that led to the making of the 1992 film and the dramatic unraveling of the complex relationships surrounding it. Who was Georges Cardona? How much of the fiasco was due to his long history of mind games? Was Sandi his enabler—or was she, as some claim, the actual ringmaster of the chaos…?

About The Team

Sandi Tan, Director/Producer Sandi was the film critic at Singapore largest daily, The Straits Times, at age 22, but quit that to attend film school at Columbia University. Her short films Gourmet Baby and Moveable Feast have been shown around the world, including at the NYFF, LAFF, Clermont-Ferrand, MoMA, and broadcast on arte, Canal+, RAI, SBS (Australia). In 2012, her debut novel The Black Isle (about a ghost-hunter!) was published by Hachette Book Group USA, in the midst of Hachette’s epic battle with Amazon. Vogue called it “a juicy, psychosexual odyssey.” It spent six weeks on the Top 10 in Singapore, but failed to topple the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, LA Weekly and Saveur. She lives in Pasadena, California, and was a 2016 Sundance Documentary Film Program Fellow.

Chiemi Karasawa, Producer Chiemi is an award-winning NYC-based producer and founder of Isotope Films. Her documentary films include Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, Billy The Kid, The Betrayal: Nerakhoon, Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction and Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait of Maurice Sendak, which have premiered at Sundance, Berlin and Venice Film Festivals. The Betrayal won an Emmy and an Oscar nomination in 2009. Prior to her work in non-fiction, she worked as a script supervisor on the feature films of Spike Jonze, David Fincher, Jim Jarmusch, Larry Clark and many others.

Enat Sidi, Editor Born and raised in Tel Aviv, Enat Sidi is a NYC-based editor. She is a frequent collaborator with directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, having edited most of their nonfiction feature films including The Boys of Baraka (2005 Emmy nominee), Jesus Camp (2006 Academy Award nominee), HBO’s 12th & Delaware (Peabody winner) and Detropia, for which Enat won an Emmy and the Editing Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. In addition, Enat has worked with such filmmakers as Ellen Kuras (The Betrayal) and Jennifer Venditti (Billy the Kid), and was the consulting editor on Bully, released in 2012 by the Weinstein Company. The Wolfpack directed by Crystal Moselle (Grand Jury Prize, Sundance 2015) is her latest editing achievement.

Iris Ng, Director of Photography Growing up in Toronto, intrigued by Super8 films of Hong Kong made by her relatives, Iris earned a BFA in Film Production from York University in Toronto, hoping to similarly capture the essence of fragile, soon-to-be-lost moments. She has shot over sixty projects, from feature docs and episodic television to commercials and music videos. Her most notable projects are Sarah Polley’s multiple award-winning Stories We Tell and the 2015 Netflix smash hit Making A Murderer. She is currently shooting Season 2 of Making A Murderer and is one of Canada’s most in-demand cinematographers.