This story contains mild spoilers about Netflix's Strikers out October 26.
When 19-year-old Sandi Tan embarked on her first feature film in 1992, she had no idea it would be an ordeal that would haunt her for the rest of her life. She made the film with two friends, as well as her mentor, Georges Cardona. Shirkers, the new documentary on Netflix and the name of said film, tells the story of that summer, and what happened after Cardona disappeared with all of the footage.
Cardona took the footage to edit it, and then never returned it. Tan only received it after Cardona's death when his ex-wife discovered all the reels in perfect condition — except for one thing: sound. To this day, the film has no audio. On September 11, 2011, Tan received an email from Cardona's ex-wife, who has remained anonymous, alerting her to the discovery of the footage. It was then that she learned that Cardona was dead.
Upon further conversations with his ex-wife, Tan found out that Cardona died on July 19, 2007 from cardiac failure, while in bed with his 21-year-old girlfriend. His death certificate also revealed that Cardona was four years older than claimed — he was actually born on in 1947, not 1951.
There's hardly a record of Cardona online outside of what was revealed in the documentary. You can see the two unexplained missing persons notices about Cardona referenced in the doc. He is also named in the Singapore Film Locations Archive for work between 1990 and 1999. Shirkers is listed next to "Georges Cardona / Five Stones Studio [f] (incomplete)."
While Shirkers the fictional film may never be a reality, at least not how Tan originally intended, Shirkers the documentary is a compelling look at Tan taking back the narrative that was stolen from her, and a larger look at how tragedy, in whatever form, bonds and, sometimes, breaks.