2018 Sundance Docs in Focus: SHIRKERS

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Sandi Tan recounts the tangled mystery of what happened to her first feature film.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition

USA (about Singapore)

Sundance Program Description:

Embodying the creative spirit of the early ’90s, super-cinephile and VHS bootlegger Sandi Tan and her friends found inspiration in American independent film. Eventually, they knew it was time to make a film of their own. In her home country of Singapore, Sandi pens a thriller about a teenage assassin and enlisted her friends, Jasmine and Sophie – think the Coen sisters – and the mysterious mentor Georges to film it. SHIRKERS became one of the few films in the country to be shot guerilla style, coloring the newly independent nation with a playful, hyper-real aesthetic. Then one day, Georges disappeared with all the 16mm footage.

Sandi embarks on a personal, singular journey into her creative life, unpacks the urban legend of SHIRKERS, and connects the clues embedded in the film to unravel the mystery of who her friend Georges Cardona really was.

A retro-inspired, ardently analogue experiment in self-discovery and filmmaking, SHIRKERS becomes a portrait of what it means to be independent, defy patriarchy, and find your tribe – only to realize that they are with you all along.

Some Background:

  • Sandi Tan

    Tan received support from the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program for this, her first documentary feature.


  • Jessica Levin

    Levin previously produced Sundance narrative feature alums SLEEP DEALER (2008), DEDICATION (2007), and GRACE IS GONE (2007), as well as short GINA, AN ACTRESS, AGE 29 (2001), and has extensive credits in producing series for HBO and Netflix.

  • Maya Rudolph

    Formerly based in Beijing and now in LA, Rudolph was the bilingual head writer/producer for ZHIMA JIE, the Chinese version of SESAME STREET, and is not the actress/comedian best known for SNL. A post supervisor, she also consulted on the 2018 Sundance Indie Episodic doc series title THE MORTIFIED GUIDE.


  • Lucas Celler
    Past Sundance docs:

    AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY (2016, associate producer/assistant editor)

  • Kimberley Hassett

    This marks Hassett’s first Sundance credit. She most recently co-produced the Toronto-debuting doc LOVE MEANS ZERO.

Consulting Editor:

Why You Should Watch:
Reassembling her collaborators to share memories of their ill-fated first film, Tan creates a warm, welcoming space for the viewer to experience the brash confidence of youth and the seduction of cinephilia, with an intriguing enigma thrown in for good measure.

More Info:
Sundance’s Meet the Artist

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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