Sunday, 13 February 2011

Johnny Mad Dog by Jean-Stephane Sauvaire

Jean-Stephane Sauvaire
{L'affichage Français séparé}
Based on Emmanuel Dongala’s novel of the same name, this disturbing war film focuses on the horror of child soldiers. Though seemingly set in Liberia during the civil war, the issue of child soldiers is universal; it can be anywhere or at anytime.
 Plus despite global consensus(?) and strenuous efforts to stop the use of children to fight for battling factions in many regions of the world, thousands are still being robbed -- not only of their childhood -- but also of their humanity -- when they are asked i.e. forced or tricked into committing  unthinkable atrocities on others including their own families.
 The effect on these children can scar for life. Most of us have seen films addressing the issue(s) of the effect of war on adults (for example “Brothers” by Susanne Bier or the recent remake by Jim Sheridan).
(See list below for other films on the subject of child soldiers).
On children it is incalculably more severe especially in the areas concerning psychosocial issues. Even if rescued and successfully reintegrated into society, the scars run deep and can manifest themselves throughout the rest of their lives, frequently haunted by their past. Also due to the competitive nature of humanity and the lack of or weakness inherent in the infrastructures currently available today, the ‘assistance’ provided can do more harm than good and quite often too little or too late .
Why children? Their innocence, naivety and idealist approach to life lends very easily to their being targeted and manipulated by unscrupulous leaders -- political, military, corporate and religious (Soldiers For Christ, or similar groups that are quite often comprised of youth). When it comes to war it is often glorified by the phrase “This is for the good of the people and you will be a hero to them”. Often they are promised riches beyond compare if they sacrifice all for now, yet many are often killed brutally when the leader no longer needs them or when they exhibit lingering traces of their childhood or humanity. It is viewed as an act of betrayal.
This film (presented at 2009 Vues D`Àfriques) grabs the viewer where it hurts the most and doesn't let go until the very last note of the final credits. Every aspect of this film, from the riveting dialogue to the mesmerizing and emotionally charged scenes and the telling music (including Nina Simone's interpretation of “Strange Fruit" during the final credits), factor into making this, an extremely disturbing and difficult film to sit through to the end. Yet this is a very important, must be viewed for all who wish to see a world set free of such horrors through which childhood innocence is stolen from our most precious resource -- our children.  The cast is comprised mainly of unknown actors who were former child soldiers, thus adding an extreme sense of authenticity that is neither exploitive nor sensational yet right on.

For more information on the subject of child soldiers go to:
For the full detailed report go to:

Among the many feature and documentary films that explore this issue of Child Soldiers we have:
1) Newton Aduala’s 2006 feature “Ezra” which was presented during the 2008 edition of Vues D’Afriques centering on the conflict in Sierra Leone. Child soldier kills his parents. 
                Three versions of this tragic incident are recounted.
2)  ``Kassim the Dream`` by Kief Davison -- 2008 documentary that relates the story of World Champion boxer Kassim Ouma born in Uganda and former child soldier. Presented during 2009 Human Rights Film Festival of Montreal.
3)  ``Paper Dove`` by Fabrizio Aguilar -- 2003 feature presented during 2004 MWFF – about a child soldier named Juan.
4)  “Grace, Milly, Lucy ... Child Soldiers” by Raymonde Provencher (see review on this blog). Presented during RIDM 2010.