Johnny Mad Dog

Institute History

  • 2009 Sundance Film Festival


Fiction based on horrifying fact, Johnny Mad Dog portrays the atrocities of an ongoing civil war in an unnamed African nation. Although challenging to the core, it's an important work that will scorch the sensibilities of the most jaded viewer; it also raises the question, can evil be forgiven?

Fifteen-year-old Johnny Mad Dog heads a platoon of soldiers who are younger than he is. They're armed to the teeth, sport a variety of bizarre outfits (odd headgear, angel wings, a wedding dress), and have adopted names such as No Good Advice, Captain Dust to Dust, and Chicken Hair. Charged with overtaking a city in an attempt to unseat the government, Johnny leads this band of killers on a murderous rampage toward their destination. Meanwhile, the studious Laokolé lives with her young brother and disabled father and dreams of a better life—until Johnny's hurricane of destruction comes her way.

Shot in Liberia, Johnny Mad Dog pulses with atmosphere and authenticity; many of the phenomenal young actors actually lived through conflicts similar to those in the film. They bring the weight of their experience to the screen and unleash some of the bravest and most genuine performances I have ever seen. Writer/director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire firmly grasps the gravity of the issues, yet packs them into a hyperstylish, almost-surreal package that shows a true visionary at work.

— Trevor Groth

Screening Details

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