Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Sandi Tan’s ‘Shirkers’ Is an Indie Filmmaking Dream Deferred

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | January 30th, 2019

“Shirkers” is title to both an uncompleted Singapore-based road movie starring Sandi Tan that was shot in the summer of 1992 and the autobiographical nonfiction examination of that lost film. With the benefit of time, Tan looks back on her own experiences, constructing a reflective bildungsroman with the requisite excitement, heartache, friendship, loss, and pain one expects from any great coming-of-age tale. As a 19-year-old on the island nation known more to outsiders for being cleaner than Disneyland than for any indie filmmaking scene, Tan joined forces with sisters-in-arms Jasmine Ng and Sophie Siddique to reach for cinematic glory. But after principal photography wrapped, much older mentor Georges Cardona disappeared with every can of the film.

How many movies have been lost or nearly lost to circumstances that cause a derailment before a public release can provide closure for the anxious and expectant filmmaker? In some sense, “Shirkers” joins longstanding legends like Jerry Lewis’ “The Day the Clown Cried,” the Sex Pistols in “Who Killed Bambi?,” David O. Russell’s “Nailed,” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Kaleidoscope” (just to name a few) as a broken dream that lives on in the what-might-have-been corners of the imagination. As is the case with Orson Welles’ “The Other Side of the Wind” and Morgan Neville’s companion piece “They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead,” the journey almost always looms larger than the destination.

Tan astutely minimizes the mystery of Cardona, refusing to turn the attention of her story to a narcissistic user undeserving of the starring role. Instead, she investigates the memories of her friends, both of whom were as gutted as Tan by the betrayal perpetrated by Cardona. Like “Rashomon,” each woman remembers unique aspects of the “Shirkers” endeavor that conflict with some of Tan’s thoughts. Ng, without mincing words, accuses Tan of being an asshole. Tan runs with it, examining vintage video that corroborates the claim. That willingness to make a deep dive on pieces of the puzzle that still trigger raw emotions is in keeping with Tan’s collagist, cut-and-paste, DIY, punk rock ethos.

Tan is nothing if not gutsy, and like so many established celluloid heroes, she might have been practicing Academy Award acceptance speeches in the mirror before making anything of substance. She breathlessly identifies “Rushmore” and “Ghost World” as simpatico with “Shirkers,” juxtaposing rhyming shots to make a case for the hipster credibility of her unfinished opus. Lost synchronous sound recordings and mature judgment guided the decision to leave “Shirkers” a phantom. Like Tan, Ng, and Siddique, we may never know why Cardona robbed his young collaborators of their commitment and hard work, even though a few people acquainted with Cardona offer tantalizing theories.

Along the way, Tan finds a sympathetic sharer in Stephen Tyler, another protege of Cardona similarly mistreated by the movie magpie. Tyler credibly surmises that Cardona’s sense of pride, entitlement, and jealousy partly drove his cruelty. For example, Cardona began to claim that he was the inspiration for James Spader’s character Graham in “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” after Tyler and another mutual friend worked on Soderbergh’s film. “Shirkers” brims with references and allusions to movies that aid Tan as she spins her story. Clips from “Blue Velvet,” “Paris, Texas,” “Heathers,” “Nosferatu,” “Fitzcarraldo,” Singapore’s own “Cleopatra Wong” and many others will be familiar to anyone who speaks the language of cinephilia.  

Recently in:

FARGO – The first time Cindy Chen saw snowflakes she fell in love, not only with Fargo – the city – but soon afterwards with her husband, Bojin Chen.Never in her wildest dreams did she think she’d one day be part owner of…

“I haven’t been to Fargo in a couple of years,” comedian Spencer Dobson said. “But it’s always had great stage time and funny, enthusiastic comics.”  Born in the small town of Voss, ND (pop 29), Dobson has been all…

Thursday, June 27, 5-11 p.m.Red Raven Espresso Parlor, 916 Main Ave, FargoThe Raven will be opening up the garage and serve up some vegan and vegetarian bbq goods. Live entertainment by SOTOS, Arachnid, Chocha, Cold Front, The…

Wallethub just released a listing of the most fun states in America. Minnesota ranked number seven, South Dakota ranked number 31, and North Dakota ranked number 40. All based on experts examining restaurants, movie theatres, golf…

From Kerosene Lamp To Drone DeliveriesThe world continues to be a very exciting place for an adolescent who spent his evenings after milking my share of four cows reading books from my country school like “Men of Iron” by…

To say that this year’s Bartenders Battle was the best display of talent in the six years since its creation would be an understatement and a disservice to not only the bartenders who made it into the competition, but also the…

All About Food

It’s date night!

by HPR Contributor

By Seng Phengdouangdethsengphengdouangdeth@gmail.comAs things are finally starting to warm up in the region, it’s time to kick that delivery habit you’ve developed all winter long and take your main squeeze out somewhere with…

When asked to describe the sound of Green Blue, Minneapolis based musician Annie Sparrows formerly of the Soviettes and Awesome Snakes laughed and said, “Our friend came up to me after a show and he said ‘Do you like Belle and…

Martin Scorsese embraces the prankster spirit of a longtime inspiration/subject in “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story.” The confounding testimony is as much mockumentary as documentary, combining new interviews and…

BISMARCK – Six months of preparation boiled down to eight seconds. There were wet plate photographs to capture, a well-known Congresswoman from New Mexico to pick up, reporters to please, and… wait… Representative Debra…

The Cass Act Players will take the stage this weekend to bring “Weather the Storm” to Bonanzaville’s Dawson Hall in West Fargo.“Weather the Storm” is a musical based on the infamous tornado that hit Fargo’s Golden Ridge…

Stand-up comedy is traditionally a one-way exchange. Outside of the odd question addressed to a random audience member, the limit of the spectators’ contribution to the conversation is their laughter at the comedy stylings being…

If you’re from the region you may have sipped, sampled or caught word of a libation often referred to as “red eye” or “wedding whiskey” at some point. In fact some of our friends of German Russia descent swear by it. If…

Wellness

Yoga on the Farm

by Ryan Janke

Every Thursday evening during the month of June, Mara Solberg is inviting people to come out and try Yoga on the Farm. It is a unique yoga experience that was born from an idea that was proposed to Solberg.“I’ve been with Red…

by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

Last Word

The ten year reunion

by HPR Contributor

By Zach Nerpelzachnerpel@gmail.comI was going by “Zach” on this particular evening. Not like I’d go by anything else in any other situation, but tonight it was determined I’d wear a nametag. I showed up to the Fargo Brewing…