ArtsCinema & TV

What Documentary Film ‘Shirkers’ Could Mean for Singapore

Shirker (noun):
Someone who avoids something, especially work (Cambridge English Dictionary).

If you aren’t sure what the film is about, even after watching the trailer, you will not be alone. The mysterious trailer raises several questions while giving almost nothing away.

Shirkers: Contraro and Specifica

Nevertheless, let me try and break it down for you.

Premiering at the Singapore Film Society’s 60th anniversary event on 20 October and globally on Netflix on 26 October, Shirkers is a documentary by Singaporean-born film-maker Sandi Tan. The film chronicles the story of Sandi and her friends’ first movie-making experience back in 1992.

Shirkers: Poster

The group filmed a Singapore-based indie movie, called Shirkers, together with the help of their film teacher and mentor. However, when the shooting was done, their mentor vanished along with all of the footage.

Shirkers: Footage

Sandi Tan’s 2018 documentary will delve deeper into the story while following her on an adventure to uncover her past and the mystery of the missing footage.

Picking up the Best Director award at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Competition and getting swooped up by Netflix in a streaming deal, the film is a safe bet for any true cinephile.

For Singaporeans, though, the film is a necessity.

Shirkers: Children

Anyone who lives in Singapore has to be familiar with what the country has accomplished: becoming one of the most advanced and developed countries in the world in an incredibly short time frame. Even Sandi Tan’s original film in 1992 would have looked completely different than the country we know today.

Growing up in Singapore, one would also have to be familiar with the need to achieve.

Hands up if you have ever signed up for something just so you could get a certificate, or just to add it into your portfolio. Keep them up if you didn’t actually enjoy it, but held on till the end nonetheless.

Achievements matter here.

Shirkers: Scene

Shirkers, on the contrary, is a refreshing celebration of the process, rather than the finished product.

The film’s story centres on the passion of three young friends, creating something out of their love for the process of film-making rather than to become rich or famous. They were not afraid to go against the norms and perceived responsibilities that society so often defines.

Shirkers: Friends

While unexpected and tragic, the fact that the completed footage was stolen poetically illustrates how, 20 years later, the final product may not be what matters the most.

The documentary is an opportunity to find out about the early days of Singapore, about Singapore’s cinephile community and most importantly, about the friends’ journey of doing something they really loved.

And for anyone living in Singapore, watching it is a responsibility you do not want to shirk.

Get your tickets here:

Visuals courtesy of Netflix and event poster courtesy of Phoebe Ho

Jeevan Vishnu

I'm 6'5, 220 - and there's two of me.

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