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Sunday, August 26, 2018

Shirkers - 2018 North Bend Film Festival Documentary Review

The Documentary: Shirkers

The Director: Sandy Tan

The Story: In 1992, teenager Sandi Tan and her friends shot Singapore’s first road movie with their enigmatic American mentor, Georges--who then absconded with all the footage. The 16mm film is recovered 20 years later, sending Tan, now a novelist in Los Angeles, on a personal odyssey in search of Georges' vanishing footprints--and her own.

The Review:
Everything about this documentary is just naturally intriguing when it really shouldn't because it's all so mundane and ordinary. There is just something about the story, the people, and the lost film that captures your attention in some unexpected ways. Tan's direction is nothing short of brilliant and it's perfectly clear that she is intimately familiar with every minute detail although there is also a sense of wonder and discovery as you follow along on her journey through time and different locations around the world. Oddly enough, the film becomes an unintentional companion piece to Crazy Rich Asians as it shows Singapore in a totally different way at a totally different time.

The gist of the story is Sandy telling the audience about this potentially groundbreaking indie film that her and her friends almost made and the ensuing search for information on what happened to the con man who swindled them out of their money and their movie. Some of the most entertaining bits are of her friends telling her how terrible things were while they were making the movie and how obsessed she was with seeing its completion at any cost. Her reactions to a few of these remarks are priceless because they are so in the moment and you wonder if she had no idea going into the conversations or if she was expecting them.

This film is so many things rolled into one, it is a detective story, it is a road movie, it is a story of friendship, a story of loss, a story of growth, a story of youth and innocence and determination. As the documentary plays out, everything gets so strange and bewildering and endearing and you wonder how in the world did these three teenage girls from Singapore accomplish the things that they did and make the film industry connections they made with less than a shoestring budget, a less than bare bones crew, and less than adequate equipment. I really wish there was a way we could see the film's completion and, who knows, maybe these amazing women will find a way to make it happen.

I also have to say that this documentary features one of the most satisfying moments of defiant gum chewing you will ever see in any type of movie ever made and it is brilliant.

The Verdict:
Shirkers is a wonderfully crafted documentary that nails the heart and soul of indie film struggles and shows how anyone, anywhere can have the potential to create, or in this case almost create, something truly magical. Sandy Tan proves why, as a teenager back in 1992, she was so determined and seemingly destined to become a film maker when she set out to make her debut feature.

Shirkers will be available to watch on Netflix beginning October 26th.

Shirkers is an official selection of the 2018 North Bend Film Festival.

TwoOhSix.com coverage of NBFF 2018.

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