Top Ten Movies of 2018 — Number Seven

shirkers title

Shirkers is a movie that never was. Or maybe was, then wasn’t, then was again. And then, well after its journey seemed fully, decisively over, a dusty path ending at a sheer cliff face, Shirkers became an entirely different type of movie. Directed by Sandi Tan, Shirkers is about her youthful attempt to make a feature film in her native Singapore, in the early nineteen-nineties. Working alongside classmates and an American-born teacher with elusive motivations, Tan creates what appears to be a lyrical, gently surreal, and visually striking fiction film. Never properly completed, the work is stolen away from her, and much of this documentary is concerned with the sense of personal and creative dislocation that resulted from the vanishing. Tan directs the documentary as part mystery, part memoir, and — seemingly to her own surprise — part confession. Precocious as a teen, Tan’s reflections gradually make it clear that sterling confidence and damaging arrogance are two side of the same page, and that page is printed on the thinnest of vellum. Shirkers gradually makes the argument that the most important part of art can be the creation of it rather than the finished piece, especially if that creation is done in collaboration with peers worth valuing. With accidental candor, Tan tries to share something she once made and instead winds up laying herself bare.

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