Johnny Mad Dog

✽✽ Fantastic Mr Fox Wes The Royal Tenenbaums Anderson takes on Roald Dahl’s anarchic tale. See feature, page 18 and review, page 49. General release from Fri 23 Oct. ✽✽ Tales from the Golden Age Romanian portmanteau film remembers the Ceaucescu years. GFT, Glasgow from Fri 30 Oct. ✽✽ An Education Period- perfect rendition of Lynn Barber’s memoirs. See review, page 50. General release from Fri 30 Oct. ✽✽ Goodbye Solo Lovely cross-cultural friendship drama set in downtown North Carolina. See profile, page 50 and review, page 51. Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 30 Oct. ✽✽ Thirst Korean master Park Chan-wook’s violent and surreal vampire flick. GFT, Glasgow & Filmhouse, Edinburgh until Thu 29 Oct. ✽✽ The Beaches of Agnès New Wave goddess Agnès Varda’s amusing auto portrait. Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 23-Thu 29 Oct. ✽✽ Africa in Motion Brilliant African cinema festival returns. See feature, left, and Top 5, index. Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Thu 22 Oct–Sun 1 Nov. ✽✽ Up Pixar’s enjoyable big balloon tale. Out now on general release. ✽✽ Zombieland The finest horror comedy in a long time. Out now on general release. ✽✽ Citizen Kane Welles’ masterpiece goes digital. Selected release from Fri 30 Oct. ✽✽ Secret Defense Jacques Rivette’s 1998 scientific thriller receives a long overdue DVD release. See review, page 52. Out now (Artificial Eye).

War child

To kick off our coverage of the Africa in Motion film festival, Kaleem Aftab speaks to the director of a new thriller set during Liberia’s recent civil war

The use of child soldiers is given a realistic and at times horrifying platform in French director Jean-Stéphanie Sauvaire’s depiction of the civil war that ravaged Liberia for over a decade until peace was declared in 2003. Sauvaire was familiar with the problems in Liberia: he tried to shoot a documentary in the state in 2003 before deciding that it was too dangerous. It says a lot about the parlous state of the African nation that Sauvaire chose then went on to successfully make a documentary in Columbia, where child soldiers were being used in the civil war against the FARC (the revolutionary People’s Army of Columbia).

It was after this experience that a friend suggested to the director that he read Congolese author Emmanuel Dongala’s novel Johnny Mad Dog, about civil war atrocities in an unnamed West African country. It was this experience that got Sauvaire thinking about Africa again. ‘It was important to see the real experience of child soldiers,’ he says. ‘We went to meet people in Liberia in 2004, just one year after the end of the war and it was still quite unstable as there was a transitional government. It took a long time to do the casting and finding the money and deciding where to shoot. At one point the UK film council were going to invest and then they pulled out. In the end we were ready to shoot in 2006, just at the moment of the election the

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change in government really helped us. The new government said, “You have to do a movie here, because we want to prove to the international community that we can do it.”’ What is most remarkable about Johnny Mad Dog the movie is the hard-hitting nature of the action. The young director states that this is because he listened to his actors, many of whom had been child soldiers. ‘In the book soldiers were going into the village and killing everyone. But the boys said that when they went into the village they would try to recruit the boys. They told me that they would go up to the boys and tell them to kill their fathers to show that they were ready to take on the uniform. I think this sequence is more interesting and also gives an insight into the recruitment process and what they were doing in villages.’

The film has been shown to the United Nations in New York to raise awareness of the child soldier issue, and since finishing the film Sauvaire has been helping set up a facility to help get former child soldiers off the streets. It seems the end of one war is the start of another altogether different but no less difficult battle.

Johnny Mad Dog is showing as part of Africa in Motion on Fri 23 Oct. See Top 5 in index.