A small group of Center for Security Studies staff watched the film “Johnny Mad Dog” today. It’s a war film played by former child soldiers of Liberia, filmed in Liberia about one and a half years after the actual war (1998-2003).
The Johnny Mad Dog Foundation was created with the aim of bringing a framework and support to the actors in the movie, most of whom fought with Charles Taylor or the Lurd Forces.
The film is highly graphic, difficult to watch and absorb at times, as it shows very realistically the utter mess of urban warfare in contemporary Africa. The crazy way the kids dress seems total fiction, until one sees the photos of the actual child soldiers during the Liberian war.
In the making of the film, former child soldiers were interviewed, and they were very clear that they wanted to tell their own story, give a voice to the unspeakable experiences they had been involved in, how they were manipulated, so that in their turn they start manipulating and violating others.
Academics and even staff of ‘conflict resolution’ NGOs often work with texts, juggling concepts, theories and methodologies. In contrast, this kind of film puts a human face on to violence. It reminds one of the brutality that comes with conflict and the emotions that are conjured.
Once the war ends, the suffering continues, and it is extremely difficult for former child soldiers to find a place in society. However, it is not as though they have become war machines, the film shows how aspects of humanity remain, how they can switch their emotions off, but at times also on again. Video extracts from the film can be seen at TFM Distribution.
According to the Child Soldiers Global Report 2008, there are many tens of thousands of child soldiers in armed forces and groups, in about 19 different countries.
You can find more about the issue of child soldiers on the ISN website.