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U.S. Theatrical Premiere
JOHNNY MAD DOG
Regard Hope Award Cannes Film Fest
"Stunning... Debut director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire shows all the technical moxie and in-your-face urgency of Paul Greengrass at his best" -TimeOut London
"It was primordial for me to work with ex-children soldiers, who seemed to be the only ones capable of giving a sincere testimony of this horror." –Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire
Johnny Mad Dog is a violent and realistic drama about children fighting in Liberia's grisly civil war (1999-2003) that presents a grim look at young people who are living without limits. Mad Dog is the 15-year-old commander of a group of boy soldiers, all stolen from their families and turned into ruthless killers by the age of 10. Operating in a world with no moral centre, they pillage their way through the country challenging everyone with big guns and macho posturing, including the UN peacekeeping force. Mad Dog is also on a collision course with 16-year-old Laokole who has lost her little brother and is trying to get help for her wounded father.
Filmmaker Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire tells this story with cinema-verité urgency, and the mainly non-actors in the cast are eerily realistic. Most of them have firsthand memories of these events, and yet they create characters who are seriously terrifying, all while adding telling touches of humor and memories of their former childhood. As these boys go on a rampage through their society, they clearly think their weapons and pack mentality make them invincible. In addition to revealing a staggering chapter of history, Johnny Mad Dog has something important to say about human nature, as these "soldiers" excuse this viciousness because they are "bringing freedom to our people", while their chanting echoes American movies and videogames, including their "no die, no rest" mantra. In the end, it it is painful to see what this war has done to a once-promising country as well as the tragedy that has traumatized an entire generation of children.
Directed by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire, France/Belgium/Liberia, 2008, 35mm, 98 mins. In English.