In the summer of 1992, filmmaker and future novelist Sandi Tan made her first feature film. She was 19-years-old, and alongside her two friends Jasmine Ng and Sophie Siddique, and her mentor Georges Cardona, they wrote and shot Shirkers. Then, Cardona absconded with the footage in tow.
This is the story of the way the film, which existed in a kind of limbo, haunted each of its makers for the rest of their lives, and how, after many, many years they finally got it back. In the clip from the Netflix documentary below, premiering exclusively on Refinery29, we hear the voice of Cardona, the teacher who swept Tan away with exaggerated claims of his Hollywood influence. Cardona disappeared with all Tan's hard work when he realized his protégé was perhaps becoming more successful than he was.
"I like being your best friend," Cardona says in a tape from decades past. "I like knowing that you're around. I like knowing that we're connected." Meanwhile, Tan has just retrieved the footage to the film that could have been.
When the film eventually found its way back to Tan, it wasn't completely the same. Shirkers is Tan's reflection on that time in her life — and how she turned her efforts to reclaim the stolen footage into something new.
Shirkers premieres October 26 on Netflix and in select theaters.