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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? Written by
Johnny Mad Dog hits you like a punch in the jaw straight from the opening shot, and doesn't let up the entire way. The film directed by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire was for me the stand out film of the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2008. The raw, splendidly gritty film making technique displayed to the full house at the forum has left an image in my head that wont leave me for a long time.
The film depicts a group of soldiers in their early teens and the lives they lead as a gang of freedom fighters in an unnamed African country. Their country has been plagued by war for many years to the point there its all the young boys have ever known. It highlights the loss of innocence amongst the young boys and extreme dramatic realities of the civil situation in the country.
The film for me had some likenesses to Fernando Murielle's and Kátia Lund's 'City of God', as both deal with the corruption of young peoples lives in poverty stricken landscapes. While 'Johnny Mad Dog' doesn't quite hits the incredible heights of 'City of God', its by no means any less of a film. 'Johnny Mad Dog' hits you with more of a documentary feel, lots of hand-held camera, yet shot compositions are still carefully considered and beautifully realized. 'Johnny Mad Dog' does away with a lot of overly stylistic editing, which presents the events of the characters as a very truthful experience.
The performances are incredible. Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire, has shaped some amazing moments from a cast of non-actors. In the Q and A afterwards he explained his pre- production techniques and his unyielding intent on casting boys who had had actually been soldiers in their past. For this, the utmost respect is disserved for him.
Sauvaire's vision of this bleak situation doesn't hold back for a moment. It grabs the audience by the neck, and puts in the middle of the disorderly gang. I'm very glad I had the opportunity to experience it.
Harry High Pants.
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