Johnny Mad Dog – from child to child soldier
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‘ Johnny Mad Dog‘ is a film based on a book written by a Congolese writer, Emmanuel Dongala. He draws on his experience in the Congolese crisis to tell the story about the forceful conscription of teenage boys and girls into the army as child soldiers. Director Jean-Stephene Sauvaire and assistant director, Samuel T. Sherman, adapted the story to film with Mathieu Kassovitz as the producer.
Johnny Mad Dog, maybe 15, leads a band of boy soldiers in a civil war in an unnamed African country. “Don’t want to die? Don’t be born” is one of their shouted mottoes. We follow Mad Dog and his crew – No Good Advice, Butterfly, Chicken Hair, and others – as they kill, pillage rape, interrogate, and terrorize on their march to the capital. They take a TV station and lead an assault on the President’s residence. We also follow Laokole, about Johnny age, as she tries to hold together her family of brother and disabled father. Is there more than chaos and inhumanity here? At war since age 10, has Johnny anything inside? This is the question we ask, as we watch everything unfold. The film is well-done….well enough to be disturbing, and galvanize us into wanting to do more.
Filmed in Liberia, the film uses non-professional actors who were actual child soldiers fighting alongside Charles Taylor, or in the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) Forces. It showcases the experiences of the children as they fight in the way, and the impact it has on them and the society at large. ‘Johnny Mad Dog’ has won an Award of Hope at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, Best Director award at the 2010 Sundance Festival, and participated in several international film festivals. The International Film Channel showed the film in the United States, and the United Nations gave it a UN Certain Regards Award.
The money made from this film is being used to help the Johnny Mad Dog Foundation take care of the former child-soldiers’ needs and provide rehabilitation, education, and cultural education for them.