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Shirkers

"Shirkers" was filmed in Singapore in 1992 and recovered 20 years later.

Singapore’s first independent, long-lost road movie called “Shirkers” has finally been unearthed, 20 years after it was filmed in 1992.

Actor-turned-director Sandi Tan was a teenage when she first began filming “Shirkers” with her friends Sophie and Jasmine.

During the filmmaking process, the teens were joined by their American mentor Georges Cardona, a self-proclaimed Hollywood producer.

Twenty years later, Sandi Tan made a companion documentary to tell the real story behind the making of the movie. Three narratives are being told: What happened to this film? Who was Georges Cardona? How did the film shape their friendships going forward?

As Tan speaks with those involved in the making of “Shirkers,” the audience begins to understand these teens wanted to be movie stars. Singapore had a minimal movie scene, but Tan and Sophie spent hours researching American movies and dreaming of being actresses.

Their teenage years led them to Cardona. A man of mystery, Cardona taught acting classes in Singapore and was drawn to Tan and her passion. Throughout the film he is an enigmatic figure, rarely seen on camera from their archival footage, but his presence is felt through everyone’s words. Cardona had an undying love for the filmmaking of “Shirkers,” but never could get the job done. Funds were always short, shooting was difficult—but the girls didn’t care; they believed they were movie stars.

In hindsight, Tan had troubles seeing the problems that plagued her passion project 20 years ago. Her interview style with her subjects is that of self-reflection. It is a stroll down memory lane for most; the good and bad memories are shown brightly. This is where the heart of Tan’s film lies. Audiences will have an admiration for anyone who touched this film. From the stars to the crew to the critics and everyone in between.

Somehow, the film survived because of Cardona. A man who disappeared with the canisters, never to been seen by Tan again, still held on to the reels. What was Cardona’s connection? He has since passed, so questions have been left unanswered—those questions drew me in even more to this film.

Unfortunately for Tan, the sound was gone, much like Cardona’s mediocre legacy with “Shirkers.” The story is interesting, powerful and the subjects are different, while compelling to the story. The original film could have been a cult classic, but is now a lost soul. This documentary carries on the legacy and is one of the best films of 2018.

You can stream “Shirkers” on Netflix.

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With a background in film history and studies, Dustyn Dubuque was formerly the film critic of River Falls Voice and is now the executive director of Menomonie Main Street. He can be reached at dustyn.dubuque@hotmail.com.

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Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

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