This is probably the most violent non-documentary film I have ever seen.

Directed by French Director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire, Johnny Mad Dog is an ultra-realistic portrayal of the gruesome life experienced by child soldiers during the Liberian civil wars (although the identity of the country is not made explicit in the film). While the story itself is based on a fictional novel of the same name by Emmanuel Dongala, many of the the actors in the film are actually former child soldiers who witnessed and committed some of the worst atrocities.

To me, Johnny Mad Dog was the long awaited answer to Fernando Meirelles’ City of God which set the bar very high in 2002. The cinematography is first class, and the acting seems anything but fictional, particularly the conflict scenes which draw those who can stomach it into a hyper-psychotic, coked-up nightmare.

Despite its strong themes, Johnny Mad Dog was initially heralded by the Liberian Information Minister Lawrence Bropleh as a film that would put Liberia on the map as a hub for movie making and even as boost for tourism. But on 25 June 2009, the film was banned in Liberia. When questioned about the decision to ban the film, Minister Bropleh said:

“…This movie is not allowed to be shown in public places. You can play it in your private residence but cannot display this movie publicly. We believe that at this point in time, we need not have the remembrance of our conflictual circumstances. And so while we agreed that Liberia be used as a place to film the movie, that you can now come to Liberia to film your movie…the movie is an excellent movie. Excellent acting on the part of the actors. But it is a movie that we agreed upon from day one when we got the scripts that Liberia will not be a distribution point. There was only one of the CDs that we understand came to Liberia. The French ambassador, myself, the Foreign Minister and few others watched the movie. We said excellent acting, not for Liberia.”

How’s that for some well-deserved hype?