Twelve Nights 十二夜 Film Review | by tiffanyyong.com
Recommended Audience: Fans of Sonia Sui, Giddens Ko, dog-lovers, documentary genre
Twelve Nights 十二夜 Film Synopsis
Twelve nights is a made in Taiwan documentary about dogs who are taken into a government-run shelter. New dogs taken in only have 12 days in which to get adopted before they die of disease or are destroyed.
Twelve Nights 十二夜 Film Viewer Rating: 4/5 ****
Twelve Nights 十二夜 Film Review:
I got to know about the film when many MediaCorp artistes started posting pictures on instagram and decided to attend the movie screening at Marina Barrage to check out the film whose title reminded me of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. When I googled about the film and its trailer, I was surprised to see many people commenting that they wanted to give the film a miss, simply because it looked like a sad film which will make people cry. It made me reconsider my decision, is the film really THAT bad? Should I give the film a miss too? Then, a friend whom I invited to attend the screening with me sent me an interview video of the director Raye and Giddens Ko few days before the event. In the interview, Raye said this film wasn’t made to make pet-lovers feel guilty, it represented hope too. The host, Bowie Tsang (Zeng Baoyi 曾宝仪) mentioned how she had some internal struggle before deciding to watch, and how she was surprised she did not, unexpectedly, cry when watching the film. Cutting the long story short, me writing this review basically means that I’ve attended the screening. So how did I feel after watching the film?
What I like about Twelve Nights 十二夜?
It was quite difficult for me to pen down my thoughts, as this is my first time writing a review for a documentary. I felt surprisingly calm after watching the film. Not particularly emotional, I didn’t cry, the documentary did not try to make me “feel” a certain way I thought it would. My left and right brain ended up debating on whether I actually liked the film.
The world in the eyes of Dogs
Documented in a daily log book form, the film shows (as the title suggests) twelve days of the life in an animal shelter in Changhua County’s Yuanlin Township. Taken at a low height of 30-50cm from the ground, I almost felt as if I’m one of the dogs witnessing the entire 12-day procedure. Just like the cartoon “Tom and Jerry” where you can never see the face of their owner, the film was specially taken at canine eye level so that the audience focus only on the plight of the animals. No blaming of the captors, no faulting of the shelter workers nor the vets. It’s just… just showing… “This is the condition I’m living in, the very reason why I’m dying. Because of your abandonment.” As day 1 start and end with dogs being brought in to the shelter. Their vivid fear was practically screaming in my face. The ingenious cinematography played sacarsm to the highest level. While slo-mo is often used in movies to emphasize the beauty, action or emotions, in this documentary, the faeces, pee, vomit passed out during the struggle and invisible “virus” spread via the cleaning process (ironic huh) were brought out so “beautifully” that it was like a slap in the face.
Understanding Doggy Languages
I like dogs, but I won’t claim to be an expert or a great lover. Perhaps because of my asthmatic condition, my sensitivity to furry stuff (pets included) never allowed me to have any dogs or cats. It is also because of this very reason that I was able to watch the film without much guilt. Besides the initial narration, there was very little human conversation or speech throughout the film. So besides the subtitles, the film was basically filled with barks and yelps – doggy languages. My lack of constant interaction with dogs gave me the pre-notion that I most probably wouldn’t know what the dogs are trying to “say”. Man, I was wrong. The haunting fearful yelps, defensive grrr-ing, playful and friendly barks, protective cries, the squealing when during the struggle against death, they were all so clear to me. It wasn’t only their barks that spoke to me. Their eyes, I felt as if I was watching us human being caught locked up.
The “Twelve Nights” under the Celebrities’ Limelight
I had to admit, although the MediaCorp celebrities had been posting about the film, it wasn’t until I know that Sonia Sui and Giddens Ko are the producers of the documentary when it truly got my attention. I believed this was one of the main reasons why most people attended the movie screening. Celebrity Influence. I was half anticipating and half afraid the effects of using celebrities to promote this film – Anticipating the appearance of Sonia in the film, as it will definitely help raise the awareness of the film. Afraid, because this might also divert the attention away from the documentary’s message: Adopt, Don’t Abandon. Fans would most probably recognized Sonia’s voice at the start of the film. And I was glad, the film managed to keep the audience focused on the message and the dogs. The snippets of the adopters at the end of the film was a great way to keep audience guessing. At least I heard some murmurs towards the end, some audience wondering if any of the “legs” belong to Sonia or Giddens Ko! (P.S. Check out the Do You Know Section to see if any of you guess it correctly!)
The “Twelve Nights” without Celebrity Influence: Why You Should Watch
While some people are “afraid” to watch the show, I have to assure you, there is nothing for you to fear. Quoting what Giddens Ko once said during an interview, “Do you love dogs? Or do you love your pet dog?” Watching this film won’t make you love your pet dog any lesser, all it might do, is to extend your love to the stray and abandoned dogs too. If a documentary about the underprivileged children from the third world countries can motivate you to adopt and sponsor children, similarly, Twelve Nights will give you one more reason why you should adopt a pet instead of buying one. Rather than forcing the workers to decide the fate of the abandoned dogs (buy drawing the triangle to mark their death date), why not help save them? For those who didn’t know, on the final night, the team decided to go against their rule for filming a documentary (to remain objective) and got involved by helping to adopt as many dogs as they could. The money Sonia Sui forked out were used to adopt these dogs, saving them before they were put down. I didn’t cry, but I was touched. 🙂 So do watch it. And of course, remember, adopt, don’t abandon.
Do You Know?
The camera-man of the documentary Twelve Nights 十二夜, Chou Yi-Hsien 周宜贤 is also the camera-man of the popular Taiwan movie “You Are the Apple of My Eye”. He was the one who got Giddens Ko to produce the film. Raye, the director, scriptwriter and co-video editor of the documentary was a video editer and dog lover. She attempted to make a film herself when She was the Music Video editer for Stephanie Sun 2011 song, “Tomorrow’s Memory” (明天的記憶). Sonia Sui was the narrator at the start of the film. Both producers (Sonia Sui and Giddens Ko) did not appear in the film at all. However, the director Raye who adopted Jumpy (Tiao Tiao 跳跳) and Sonia Sui’s dad did appear at the end of the film. The entire film was produced on mainly voluntary basis (directing, videography, soundman, editing, publicity design), if not a minimal fee. According to Giddens Ko’s blog article, all proceeds earned from the ticket sales in Taiwan (deducting tax) will be donated to those Animal Welfares Societies with good records. The screening in Singapore was sponsored by BEKO Smart Nation, MediaCorp Tap AMU and Sonia Sui Studio.
Behind The Scenes and Interviews