Still from Shirkers

Alumni Debut Acclaimed Documentary at 2018 Sundance Film Festival

BY Ijaaz Noohu, January 22, 2018

In what has already been a banner year for the School of the Arts at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, alumni Sandi Tan '00, and Jessica Levin '02 helmed their documentary, Shirkers, which launched to much praise from festival goers.


Filmmaker Magazine announced the film as a must-see at the festival, stating that "the film begins with (gorgeous) footage from the film, and the tale of its rediscovery is a fascinating detective story."


Shirkers, directed and produced by Sandi Tan and produced by Jessica Levin, utilizes 25-year old archival film to tell a personal story from Sandi Tan's life. In 1992, as a teenager, Sandi Tan shot Singapore’s first road movie with her enigmatic American mentor, Georges—who then absconded with all the footage. The 16mm film is recovered 20 years later, sending Tan, now a novelist in Los Angeles, on a personal odyssey in search of Georges’ vanishing footprints—and her own.


Sandi Tan published a zine called The Exploding Cat at age 16 and became the film critic at The Straits Times, Singapore’s largest newspaper at 22, then threw all that away to run off to film school at Columbia University. Her short films Moveable Feast and Gourmet Baby have played at over 100 film festivals including NYFF, Oberhausen and Clermont-Ferrand, and were broadcast internationally on RAI, SBS and ZDF/arte. She is also the author of The Black Isle, an epic novel that re-imagines Singapore’s past as a ghost story. She was a 2016 Sundance Documentary Film Program Fellow, a 2017 IFP Documentary Lab Fellow and a 2017 Sundance Creative Producing Fellow. She lives in Pasadena, California.


Jessica Levin is a veteran in independent film (producer of various indie features and post-production supervisor on Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche New York), Jess became a prolific producer on HBO shows (Cary Fukunaga’s True Detective and Todd Haynes’ Mildred Pierce, David Simon’s The Deuce (pilot), Treme and Show Me a Hero). Most recently, she is a producer on Scott Frank’s Godless and Cary Fukunaga’s Maniac for Netflix.