Tag Archives: Singaporean

2023 FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL: “THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE EAST” SHORTS SHOWCASE

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Sarangi (Tarun Thind, United Kingdom): Florescent eeriness, late-night study, and then an incongruous, but familiar sound. An unnamed student hears the tones of “God Save the Queen,” but performed on an instrument native to his ancestral land. When the witch appears, each run of the bow and turn of the wheel further traps the young man as the echoing pitch of his adopted home’s anthem severs him from his past.

Two Sides (Luo Mingyang, China): This animation was cryptic and circular, and prominently featured an ominous blade. Effectively silent, as well, as a troubled boy, the least-worthy member of a gang of toughs, is alternately challenged to rough up a victim, or petrified by a vision of a two-faced spirit. It doesn’t make much sense, but it has a “vibe”, a climax, and a post-credits coda that, for whatever reason, seared a deep impression in me.

English Tutor (Koo Jaho, South Korea): Comedy and horror from Korea! Few things are more of a delight. An (you guessed it) English tutor seeks work and is summoned by a mother desperate for her young daughter to write, one word, any word (!), in English. The tutor succeeds in her task after calming the weeping child. But, alas, something is very wrong: and things turn from sweet to creepy to violent with due haste.

Foreigners Only (, Bangladesh): Ohohoh, this was the best of the lot. Our hero (if you will) is a tanner by trade, desperately seeking lodging away from work. Bug bites from ambient animal skins vex him something fierce. His girlfriend is appalled to learn his trade (“You hurt animals!” —”No I don’t! They… they come pre-hurt.”) But Continue reading 2023 FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL: “THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE EAST” SHORTS SHOWCASE

CAPSULE: SHIRKERS (2018)

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DIRECTED BY: Sandi Tan

FEATURING: Sandi Tan, Jasmine Kin Kia Ng, Sophia Siddique Harvey, Georges Cardona

PLOT: In the summer 1992, Sandi Tan and her friends filmed “Shirkers”, only to have their would-be feature debut spirited away by their enigmatic guru, Georges Cardona.

COMMENTS: A quick look at IMDb will show you that Georges Cardona was not involved in the production of Apocalypse Now. And though one of his protegés was involved in making Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Georges was not, nor was it possible that he was the basis of James Spader’s character Graham. Georges was not born on a ship heading out from Germany in 1949. What his life actually consisted of was stories, stories he would tell to anyone who would listen—and many did, including Sandi Tan. Something of an awkward teenager, Sandi felt repressed by her Singaporean upbringing, and felt liberated by the transcendental intellectual attraction and attention from Georges Cardona, a mysterious film teacher who believed in her as much as he probably believed in his own fabricated history.

But Shirkers is not about Georges Cardona. It is a movie memoir about Sandi and her friends Jasmine and Sophia, who did the unthinkable in Singapore in 1992. With no training and no money, but with superhuman drive and ever-percolating minds, Sandi & Co. filmed a story about a strange collector of people, titled “Shirkers.” Shirkers, the documentary about that film’s strange production history, is the director’s personal recollections and interviews with those involved, spliced with footage from the original project along with various contemporary private recordings, many featuring Georges Cardona: one of the most mysterious entities to grace a film, as well as a mystical influence in lives of many filmmakers and storytellers.

Shirkers is a masterful documentary. The facts behind the whole mystery-shebang would have been adequate to keep my attention without any bells, hooks, and whistles, but Sandi Tan proves as adept at spinning a yarn as she is at documenting her life over the past quarter century. The flow is constantly interrupted by asides, proliferating like branches of narrative that miraculously reconverge by the story’s end. Her narration suggests fragility, and at times resignation, but beneath her entire recounting one can hear a strength of character, forged in no small part by the fools-gold Svengali whom she met at her most impressionable stage in life. Sandi’s reunion with her two dear friends after so many years of intermittent contact feel genuine, because her friends pull no punches when reminiscing about that fraught and bizarre summer of their early adulthood.

Again, this isn’t the story of Georges Cardona. But he is the central prop—the elephant in the story that cannot be ignored, but cannot be perceived except in pieces, like in the parable of the blind men. Georges insinuated himself into the lives of young and talented raconteurs, but in the case of Sandi Tan, Shirkers is her story, and how she managed to live her own life despite this massive weight of egocentric mystery that encumbered her for decades.

Shirkers is a Netflix exclusive.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“There’s no counting the creative projects begun in youth that have been abandoned, forgotten, scrapped. Sandi Tan’s bears the weird and painful distinction of having been stolen.” -Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter (contemporaneous)