‘Shirkers’ director Sandi Tan to adapt Elif Batuman’s ‘The Idiot’

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Sandi Tan

Filmmaker Sandi Tan, who broke out last year with the unique documentary “Shirkers,” has revealed her next project: an adaptation of Elif Batuman’s “The Idiot.”

“Shirkers” – which chronicled how Tan made her 1992 debut feature at age 18 in Singapore and then had the footage stolen by her enigmatic director Georges and then returned after his death in 2008 – earned the auteur the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. “Shirkers” also was nominated for the best documentary feature film in the Alliance of Women Film Journalists’ EDA Awards and found a huge audience on Netflix.

Tan is teaming with Animal Kingdom and Cinereach to write and direct an adaptation of Batuman’s “The Idiot,” according to The Cut.

A Pulitzer Prize finalist, “The Idiot,” published in 2017, is inspired by Batuman’s own life. Set in 1995, it tells the story of Selin, a daughter of Turkish immigrants and cerebral freshman at Harvard who falls in love for the first time. The story mostly takes place inside Selin’s head.

“I read it and I was like, ‘I love it so much, but I don’t know how to do it,’” Tan tells The Cut.

When she read it a second time, she figured out how she’d approach the adaptation. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I have to do it. I know how to do it. I know how to do it!’” she recalls.

Tan likens the project to “Twilight” meets “Vertigo” meets “Phantom Thread” meets “Call Me By Your Name” meets “Lady Bird.”

“So, the book’s basically the intelligent, creative young woman’s ‘Twilight,’ right?,” she tells The Cut.

“It’s about this woman who is head smart and heart stupid — that’s why she’s the idiot,” she explains. “And she’s being sucked into this vortex of obsession by this guy, and by the end of it she gets destroyed. But instead of turning into a vampire, she turns into an artist. And to watch that transformation is a wonderful thing.”



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