Screenings of works-in-progress are a rarity at TIFF, so it was something of a treat, albeit a sobering one, for the festival to host a six-excerpt, 35-minute preview of Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children Tuesday afternoon, plus a post-screening panel discussion as part of the fourth annual TIFF Docs Conference program.
The documentary – based on Senator Roméo Dallaire's similarly titled 2010 book about the plight of the estimated 250,000 child soldiers in the world today – is directed by Patrick Reed and produced by Peter Raymont. (Raymont won an Emmy for helming the 2004 film Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire, based on another Dallaire book.) The hope is to finish the project by November as an 85-minute feature, take it to the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, then Sundance in early 2013, then to Toronto's Hot Docs in April.
Dallaire, 66, was part of the panel, and as usual spoke forcefully on the need to eliminate children as weapons of war. He railed at the continued "demonization" of Omar Khadr by Canadians and Canadian politicians even though Canada helped frame and remains a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. (Reed indicated Khadr's case will be included in Fight's final cut.)
The most arresting panelist, though, was 24-year-old Michel Chikwanine, who was abducted in Congo as a child soldier at age five and later forced by Rwandan rebels to kill his best friend. An Ontario resident since 2004, Chikwanine is doing voice-overs for animated sections in Fight Like Soldiers.