Before She Was So Rudely Interrupted: ‘Shirkers’ Director Sandi Tan On Realizing A Dream Deferred

By Sonaiya Kelley
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Sandi Tan’s harrowing filmmaking journey is the focus of “Shirkers,” a new Netflix documentary 20 years in the making.

Los Angeles Times

What happens to a dream deferred? Filmmaker Sandi Tan has had to grapple with that question for the last 25 years.

In 1992, the then-19-year-old made an ambitious and ultra-low budget road movie with friends Jasmine Ng and Sophie Siddique that seemed certain to become a cult classic in their native Singapore, if only because the country’s film production was essentially nonexistent.

But then Georges Cardona, the mysterious, middle-aged American film teacher who was tasked with directing the project, vanished without a trace and took 70 canisters of film, boxes of scripts and storyboards with him.

“It was a slow drip, the realization,” Tan says of having the footage taken. “It just kills you slowly. It was months, maybe years before it dawned on us.

“It’s like we remembered what it was like to fly and now we have to walk forever. You are back to Earth, doomed to never speak of this because there’s no proof that it ever happened. There’s no proof you were ever special.”

The whole sordid story is the focus of “Shirkers,” a Netflix documentary that shares its name, and a significant amount of footage, with the would-be film. Tan’s doc is now streaming on the site and playing in limited theatrical release.

Cardona, an enigmatic figure with a passion for art cinema and a knack for tall tales, had befriended the group of teens only to snatch their dreams, and Tan ultimately discovered she wasn’t the only one this happened to.

“He was a great storyteller,” Tan says. “He was very, very talented. If he walked into the room right now, the promise of adventure when he talks to you is so intriguing and so seductive that … you’d want to go off with (him).”

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