The "Very Personal Story" Within Canadian Drama '14 Days, 12 Nights': 'THR Presents' Q&A With Director Jean-Philippe Duval

Duval says the drama — about a Canadian woman who travels to Vietnam to visit the birthplace of her adopted daughter — touched on his own family’s story.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Alex Ritman sat down with director Jean-Philippe Duval to discuss his film 14 Days, 12 Nights in a THR Presents Q&A powered by Vision Media.

During the half-hour chat, Duval described why the film — Canada’s entry for the 2021 Academy Awards' international feature film category — touched on subjects that were closer to home than anything he had worked on previously.

14 Days, 12 Nights follows Isabelle (Anne Dorval), a grief-stricken Canadian woman who journeys to Vietnam to visit the birthplace of her adopted daughter following a terrible accident. Touching on themes such as culture, mourning, friendship and forgiveness, the story sees Isabelle eventually meet her daughter’s birth mother, Thuy Nguyen (Leanna Chea), in Hanoi, and the two embark on a road trip to some of the country’s most famed scenic hotspots, including Ha Long Bay and Sa Pa.

"It’s a very personal movie for me, maybe the most personal movie I’ve ever done," revealed Duval, who explained that not only had the scriptwriter – Marie Vien — adopted two children, including one from Vietnam, 25 years earlier, but his sister had adopted a Chinese girl 15 years ago.

"So when I first read the one-pager of the project, I was immediately touched by it — it was touching my own family’s story."

Shooting in Vietnam over just 15 days, Quebec-based Duval said he cast many people on the street as he attempted to "integrate reality into poetic filmmaking." And while his small crew and tiny budget meant that precise planning was required, he also tried to adopt a documentary-style approach while shooting.

"There are actually a lot of well-known Vietnamese actors and stars in the film, but I mixed them with people on the street," he said, describing how in Hanoi — where the hustle, bustle and color provides a rather unique and frenetic backdrop — he would just put his camera down, add some extras, and start filming without any preparation.

"For me, it was important to stay close to the feeling of Isabelle, who didn’t really know Vietnam except when she went there to adopt her daughter 18 years earlier, so she was perfect for me to adopt my point of view," he said.

"I was totally comfortable to put my camera into the eyes of Isabelle."

As for his niece, Duval said she was "very touched and overwhelmed" by 14 Days, 12 Nights. "For her, it’s like I’m telling part of her story."

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