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Shirkers poster.jpg
Directed bySandi Tan
Produced bySandi Tan
Jessica Levin
Maya Rudolph
Written bySandi Tan
Music byIshai Adar
CinematographyIris Ng
Edited byLucas Celler
Sandi Tan
Kimberley Hassett
Titmouse Inc
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
Running time
96 minutes
CountriesUnited States
United Kingdom

Shirkers is a 2018 British-American documentary film by Singapore-born filmmaker Sandi Tan about the making of an independent thriller featuring a teenage assassin set in Singapore.[1] It premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in January and won the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award, making her the second Singapore-born filmmaker after Kirsten Tan (Pop Aye, 2017) to win an award at the festival.[2][3][4] It was also nominated for the Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Documentary.[5]

Shirkers was released on October 26, 2018, on Netflix.[6]


In the summer of 1992, 19-year-old Sandi Tan, alongside friends Jasmine Ng and Sophia Siddique, as well as film teacher and mentor Georges Cardona, shot the independent film Shirkers in Singapore. After wrapping, Tan, Ng, and Siddique left the footage with Cardona as the trio went to study abroad for college. However, Cardona disappeared with the footage and the trio never saw or heard from him again.[7]

On September 11, 2011, four years after Cardona's death in 2007, Cardona's ex-wife emailed Tan, informing her that she was in possession of the footage for Shirkers, minus the audio tracks. In the proceeding years, Tan decided to digitize the footage and use it to make something new - a documentary about the process of lensing the 1992 Super 8 film stock.[8]

Interviews were conducted in 2015 with Tan's friends, people involved with the making of Shirkers, and people who knew Cardona. The interviewees were Sophia Siddique Harvey, Jasmine Ng, Sharon Siddique, Philip Cheah, Ben Harrison, Foo Fung Liang, Pohshon Choy, Tay Yek Keak, Grace Dane Mazur, Stephen Tyler, and Georges Cardona's ex-wife.

Georges Cardona[edit]

Around 1976, in New Orleans, Georges Cardona,[9][10] a John F. Kennedy High School attendee, photography mentor to David Duke, and Vietnam War veteran,[11] opened Lighthouse Media Center, a franchisee of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Super-8 Sound, a retrofitter of Beaulieu Super 8 film cameras.[12][13] Cardona was the cinematographer, for some of David Duke's electoral campaign commercials, and in New Orleans, in 1988, for Stephen Tyler's The Last Slumber Party.[14][15][16]


Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 100% based on 64 reviews, with an average rating of 8.37/10. The site's consensus reads: "Shirkers uses one woman's interrogation of a pivotal personal disappointment to offer affecting observations on creativity, lost opportunity, and coming to terms with the past".[17] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 88 out of 100 based on 20 critics, indicating "universal acclaim"; it is labeled as a "Metacritic must-see".[18]

Citing the film as one of his favorites at Sundance, Nick Allen of wrote a rave review for Shirkers, saying that "Tan presents her multifaceted life story—vibrant, unbelievable, and full of such incredible women—as a dazzling tapestry that’s unlike many narrative or documentary films."[19]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Recipient Result
2018 Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Documentary Directing Award Shirkers Won
Gotham Independent Film Awards Best Documentary Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association[20] Best Documentary Film Won
2019 Independent Spirit Awards Best Documentary Feature Sandi Tan, Jessica Levin and Maya Rudolph Nominated


  1. ^ Sundance Institute
  2. ^ Lui, John (1 March 2018). "Sandi Tan's award-winning documentary Shirkers to stream on Netflix". The Straits Times. Retrieved 2 March 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Linden, Sheri (23 January 2018). "'Shirkers': Film Review (Sundance 2018)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2 March 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Halligan, Fionnuala (22 January 2018). "'Shirkers': Sundance Review". Screen International. Retrieved 2 March 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Sharf, Zack (2018-10-18). "2018 Gotham Awards Nominations: 'The Favourite' and 'First Reformed' Lead the Pack". IndieWire. Retrieved 2018-10-19.
  6. ^ Here Are All The TV Shows And Movies Coming To Netflix In October (2018) And What To Watch
  7. ^ Keeley, Pete (13 November 2018). "How a "Shape-Shifter" Director Hijacked a Teen Film for More Than 20 Years". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  8. ^ "Shirkers: a movie mystery 25 years in the making". the Guardian. 20 October 2018. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  9. ^ "Georges Cardona". IMDb. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  10. ^ Cardona, Georges (1995). About Burma/Myanmar. Singapore: A & B Co. ISBN 9810074174. OCLC 41357880.
  11. ^ "MISSING: Georges Cardona". 2001-08-10. Retrieved 4 May 2021. vétéran de la guerre du Vietnam
  12. ^ "special issue: Professional Super-8" (PDF). American Cinematographer. Hollywood, California: ASC Holding Corp. 56 (11). November 1975. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  13. ^ Luers, Erik (February 2, 2018). "'Shirkers': How a Filmmaker Reclaimed her Lost Work and Turned It into a Sundance-Winning Doc". Archived from the original on 11 August 2020. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  14. ^ "Stephen Tyler". IMDb. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  15. ^ Tyler, Stephen (1988). "The Last Slumber Party". IMDb. B. and S. Productions. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  16. ^ Arceneaux, Bill (1 January 2019). "From Shirkers, Then Back to NOLA: An Interview with Stephen Tyler". Big Easy Magazine. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  17. ^ "Shirkers (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 23, 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ^ "Shirkers Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 1, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  19. ^ Allen, Nick. "Sundance 2018: Shirkers, Generation Wealth, Colette".
  20. ^ "LA Film Critics Name Roma Best Film of the Year". Associated Press. 9 December 2018. Retrieved 10 December 2018 – via The New York Times. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]