Powerful film shows brutal world of child soldiers

Wed May 21, 2008 1:14pm EDT
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By James Mackenzie

CANNES, France (Reuters) - A powerful new film, made with a cast of former child soldiers from Liberia and shot in the streets of Monrovia, depicts the brutal chaos of civil wars that have consumed generations of African children.

"Johnny Mad Dog," by French director Jean-Stephane Sauvaire, follows a band of Kalashnikov-toting boys with names like "No Good Advice," "Small Devil" and "Jungle Rocket" as they advance on the capital of an unnamed African country.

The cast, mostly former child soldiers themselves, lend a near-documentary authenticity to a film based on a novel of the same name by Emmanuel Dongala.

"I wanted to be very close to reality," he told Reuters at the Cannes film festival where the film is being shown.

"I needed to tell the truth about this subject. I didn't just want to take a child, a gun and to make an action movie."

Shot in a raw, dynamic style, his film paints a harrowing picture of a world where children are ripped from their families and made into amoral killers used by leaders of whom they are only vaguely aware.

Christopher Minie, who plays the teenaged Johnny Mad Dog and his subordinate, No Good Advice played by Dagbeh Tweh, mix callous brutality with occasional flashes of humanity that show the child that still exists beneath the cold-eyed killers.

"All the actors in the movie are non-professional actors but they have all had experience of the war," Sauvaire said.   Continued...

<p>French producer Mathieu Kassovitz (R) poses with director Jean-Stephane Sauvaire during a photocall for the film "Johnny Mad Dog" at the 61st Cannes Film Festival May 20, 2008. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler</p>