Johnny Mad Dog brings child soldiers to the big screen

I can’t leave my weapon. My weapon is my mother and father

Johnny Mad Dog is a French/Liberian movie, based on the 2002 novel Johnny Chien Méchant from Congolese writer Emmanuel Dongala. The film follows the story of a group of boys aged from 10 to 15 years of age, armed with assault rifles to fight during the civil war in Liberia. As the government is on the verge of collapse, Johnny Mad Dog leads the group of boys through a number of towns and villages heading for the capital Monrovia, stealing from, raping and killing – sometimes just for practice – whatever and whomever they find along the way, with little regard for even their own lives.

Peter Bradshaw in his review of the film in the Guardian sums up the relentless message of the film:

it carries a nauseous message: child soldiers are horrible, but they are simply the evolutionary endpoint of war. They are the exception which is all but indistinguishable from the rule. War is brutalising, infantilising, dehumanising, requiring the unquestioning submission to authority. All soldiers are child soldiers: that is the bitterly cynical nightmare that Sauvaire’s film insists upon to the very end.

To read Johnny Chien Méchant or any other works from writer Emmanuel Dongala, see his list of publications here.

To read more on the issue of child soldiers see Child Soldiers International or see the IRIN News in-depth special on child soldiers.