SIFF Encore - Love Me, Love My Dogs by Lincoln Chia


Love Me, Love My Dogs is an interview with a dog fanatic who owns 2 shitzu dogs, if I am getting this right). If I get it wrong, I may suffer a severe tongue-lashing from her.

She is a young, well-groomed lady named Miss Juliet Toh. Right from the start, she drew so much attention to herself that it was hard not to notice the `finer’ details that made her who she was. She is at first sight an assertive modern woman with very domineering qualities. Dressed in a mustard yellow pants suit at the dog show, her intense eyes belie the control-freak in her. When she is dressed down, the sturdy flesh that is stretching her fitted T-shirt signals to us she could deliver a karate chop if messed around with. Her hair mirrors one of her dogs, straight in an artificially ironed way – one wonders if she sent the dog for hair-rebonding. Her eyebrows are trimmed and her choice of spectacles complete the meticulous look. And that tone of voice. While it may not politically incorrect to notice it, for the purposes of an enlightened view of the documentary, it may be worth paying attention.
Most of the film is her talking head with the camera occasionally tilting to catch the dogs playing below her. She shares everything about why she loves dogs and the various events that happened in her life in relation to her obsession. She dealt with her father’s disapproval, her son’s ill-treatment of the dogs, the pain of not seeing them when she is abroad and even the heart-wrenching death of her previous pair of dogs. Most of the time, she is matronly in her style, but occasionally, she softens and relents to her emotions, best characterized by her breaking down at the recount of her former dogs’ deaths.
While the interview succeeds in entertaining and engaging us, one could not help notice something tongue-in-cheek about the light in which she was presented. No effort was made to mitigate the giggle-inducing masculinity (literally) of her voice and spirit. The camera shot her point blank and at an uncomfortably close distance (it takes a strong woman like her to still maintain her composure). I dare say there was that freak-show quality that lingered beneath rather pacifist topic, risking a little political incorrectness. And it seemed to parallel the idea of her taking her dogs to the stage at dog shows. After all, they are equally well-manicured and love the attention. So while we marvel at the state of her obsession, the observant ones will also appreciate the extent of a deeper and longer mission within – to live life the way she wants it.

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