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12 Days

Distributed by Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710

Directed by Raymond Depardon
DVD, color, 87 min.
General Adult
Health, Sociology

Reviewed by Kay Hogan Smith, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
Date Entered: 11/27/2018

This quietly poignant documentary follows the judgements of officials overseeing the cases of several people with severe mental illness involuntarily committed to a French institution for the statutory 12 days. The premise itself seems dry and remote, and the judgements as to the patientsí continued commitment are indeed passed in a seemingly matter-of-fact, efficient manner. Still, the judges betray glimpses of compassion in their faces as they confront the tormented souls before them struggling to maintain a rational composure as they argue for their own freedom. For it is the involuntary nature of their confinement and treatment by the state which, while impressively civilized to the eyes of this American reviewer as well as recognized as helpful by many of the patients themselves, is objectionable all the same. 12 Days beautifully interweaves scenes of patientsí listless meandering on the institutionís grounds or through the hallways with the hearings in which the patientsí backstories are laid out for the viewer with subtly devastating effect. This documentary could be easily integrated into academic discussions on ethics, sociology or psychology. Highly recommended.