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Shirkers

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Type
Producers Sandi Tan & Jessica Levin

Synopsis

In the summer of 1992, teenage film geek Sandi Tan and her two friends, Sophie and Jasmine, made one of Singapore’s first indie films, a surreal road movie called Shirkers. Their enigmatic American film instructor, Georges Cardona, played the director; Sandi wrote the script and played the main character, a teenage murderess/savior named S. It was an idiosyncratic experiment, featuring about 100 actors in 100 locations and the largest dog in the country, all accomplished gratis (Kodak provided the film stock). When shooting wrapped, Cardona absconded with all of the footage… and the whole enterprise evaporated into the realm of myth.

Dreams, a pictorial record of youth and landscape—and friendships—all these were erased with his disappearing act. Over time, Shirkers became a haunted memory, too traumatic for Sandi to talk about, especially with Jasmine and Sophie.

Twenty years later, the 16mm cans are recovered in New Orleans. Sandi, now a novelist in Los Angeles, travels across two continents uncovering Cardona’s vanishing footprints—and her own—in a sort of documentary “remake” of the original film. Where in the original Shirkers she had put five chosen people to sleep, she would now bring fifteen back to life by making them speak of the past. The result: a uniquely personal odyssey-as-ghost-story that is full of surprises, comprised of interviews and vérité shot in 2015 and 2017, the original Shirkers footage, Sandi’s own video and Super8 archive, as well as beloved classics of cinema, altogether forming a kaleidoscopic moving scroll about friendship, memory and mad movie love.

About The Team

Sandi Tan (Director, Producer, Editor) Sandi published a zine called The Exploding Cat at 16 and became the film critic at The Straits Times, Singapore’s largest newspaper at 22, then threw all that away to run off to film school at Columbia University. Her short films Moveable Feast and Gourmet Baby have played at over 100 film festivals including NYFF, LAFF and Clermont-Ferrand, and were broadcast internationally on RAI, ZDF and arte. She is also the author of The Black Isle, an epic novel that re-imagines Singapore’s past as a ghost story. She was a 2016 Sundance Documentary Film Program Fellow and lives in Pasadena, Calif.

Jessica Levin (Producer) Jess is Sandi’s film school pal from Columbia University and has been following the Shirkers saga for a decade. After years as a veteran in independent film (producer of various indie features and post-production supervisor on Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche New York), Jess became a prolific producer on HBO shows (True Detective and Mildred Pierce, Treme, Show Me a Hero, Vinyl pilot and Steve McQueen’s pilot Codes of Conduct) and more recently, upcoming series for Netflix.

Iris Ng (Director of Photography) The formidable, pint-sized Iris Ng is a top cinematographer with well over a decade of experience working in both fiction and non-fiction. Her best known credits are Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell, including its famous/notorious faux-‘70s Super8 sequences, and Netflix’s much binge-watched Making a Murderer.

Lucas Celler (Editor) Lucas moved to Los Angeles in 2013, after working as an assistant on Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. He was Associate Producer and Assistant Editor on Jeff Feuerzeig’s Author: the J.T. LeRoy Story, where he was solely responsible for organizing Laura Albert’s extensive personal archive. He has also directed music videos, including for Dean Wareham of Luna (“Love Is Colder Than Death”).