Have you ever stopped to think that sometimes we take our entertainment for granted? Yes, we live in the streaming age. The age where you can quite literally do a simple Google search and find what you’re looking for in mere seconds. Thanks to services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and Vudu. Not to mention, that we are getting ready to enter into the second generation of that age. With studios like Disney & Warner Brothers getting ready to launch their own services. What if we didn’t have these very things though? What if the rest of the world was advanced in their media but we, here in America weren’t.
Eadweard Muybridge was an English photographer was a pioneer in the study of applying motion to photography. Thomas Edison gave the world our first commercial motion picture exhibit. It was held at New York City and used his kinetoscope. Finally in 1888, french inventor, Louis Le Prince had given us what some believe to be the first movie entitled Roundhay Garden Scene. Here in America, our first movie is said to be The Jazz Singer in 1927. Let that sink in that America has been making movies for over 90 years.
Enter the country of Singapore and the year is 1992. A small group of people are setting out to make a movie that would go down as Singapore’s first ever full length feature entitled Shirkers. The new Netflix documentary, of the same name, tells the story behind the legend of the advanced film that never quite saw the light of day.
For the most part, Shirkers paints a compelling and engaging narrative. Writer/director, Sandi Tan, doesn’t just tell a story of how the film came to be and its’ ultimate untimely end. Tan does a masterful job at building up the relationship of the core crew of the film. Beyond that, she transcendentally gives a history of Singapore - giving a deeper appreciation for how tragic the events of the film really are. Brilliantly told through a series of reenactments, candid interviews and home video footage. Shirkers crafts an environment that is memorizing. Blending together noir cinematography with emotionally charged music - Shirkers is an experience that grabs you and never wants to let go.
That is until some of the film’s flaws start to kick in. In its’ majority, Shirkers does a cohesive job with its’ narrative. There is a part within the film’s second act, that completely comes to a halt to walk the audience through an abridged version of the synopsis. Not that the sequence is inherently bad, merely misplaced. As is a good portion of the film’s final act. The film dares to deliver more depth on the film’s antagonist. A portion of the film that, again, should have existed prior in the film or been abbreviated.
Overall, Shirkers, is a fascinating documentary with an emotional core. Blended together with brilliant dramatic recreations, noir-esque cinematography & source material that will continuously put you on the edge of your seat. The film does have some minor narrative issues with portions feeling overdrawn or misplaced. Shirkers is a film that could have been revolutionary in its’ time and country but instead its’ an equally engaging documentary.
FINAL SCORE : 4 / 5
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