Star Update

‘Shirkers’ Director Sandi Tan: Why It Was ‘Very Difficult’ To Make Such A Personal Doc

The captivating ‘Shirkers’ documentary has been shortlisted for an Oscar, but as director Sandi Tan EXCLUSIVELY tells us, it was quite ‘horrifying’ to make such a revealing film about herself.

“My film Shirkers — It’s about me finding this lost film,” director Sandi Tan, 46, said while EXCLUSIVELY speaking with HollywoodLife.com at the 30th Annual Palm Springs Film Festival. The documentary tells of how an 18-year-old Sandi, living in her native Singapore, made a film (the original Shirkers) with her friends and an “enigmatic American collaborator” Georges Cardona. After Georges vanished with all the Shirkers footage, Sandi never thought she’d see the footage again — until Georges’ widow contacted her to tell her that she had the footage.

The original film’s creation and disappearance is the subject of the critically acclaimed Netflix documentary of the same name, and as she tells HollywoodLife.com, revisiting the past wasn’t an easy walk down memory lane. “It’s a film about me and my friends. We filmed this together. The process was—it would take an hour to talk about. By the end of it, it was a strange realization. I was singing a duet with my younger self because it’s about my younger self. That person is still a part of me and I become a different person by the end of the film. The process is learning that I’m not fully grown up but it’s OK.”

Making a documentary about such a personal moment in her life “was very difficult just on the most basic level,” Sandi added. “Seeing footage of myself as a young teenager and just this awkward person. That was the most horrifying thing to get over. Once I got over that, it was other things that were going to be difficult. Everything else.”

Sandi’s hard work may pay off in a big way, as Shirkers is among the 15 films shortlisted for Best Documentary Feature in the 91st Academy Awards, according to The Straits Times (where she reportedly used to work as a film critic, btw.) The nominations will be announced on Jan. 22, but she’s doing her best to not get swept up in the hype.

“I’m on the short list, so it has occurred to me [that she could get nominated],” she tells HollywoodLife.com, “but I don’t think about it because you shouldn’t think about that kind of stuff …You just try not to think about these kinds of things. That would be really nice and then I’d have to go shopping! We’ll see!”

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