A dark game of make-believe comes to life in “I Declare War,” a kids’ movie for adults, due in theaters Friday.
Hero Complex readers get an exclusive look at a clip from the film (check it out in the video above), which won the audience award at last year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas.
“I Declare War” follows a group of a 12-year-olds engaged in an imaginative game of capture-the-flag. Sticks become submachine guns, water balloons become grenades, and what begins as a children’s game takes a twisted turn when the kids begin to blur the lines between fantasy and reality, revealing some dark aspects of human nature. Think “Lord of the Flies” meets “The Goonies.”
The cast is led by 13-year-old Gage Monroe (“Falling Skies,” “The Firm”), who plays PK, the “Patton”-obsessed reigning champion of war in the neighborhood.
In the video clip above, PK schools his teammates in war strategy, quoting Napoleon and justifying the “sacrifices” he requires his army to make.
“This is war, man, not … hopscotch” he tells them. “You wanna win? You gotta have casualties.”
Monroe is joined on screen by young actors Siam Yu, Michael Friend, Mackenzie Munro, Aidan Gouveia, Alex Cardillo, Dyson Fyke, Spencer Howes, Andy Reid, Kolton Stewart, Eric Hanson and Alex Wall.
The film was codirected by Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson. Lewin Webb produced. Lapeyre, who also wrote the film, said the story was based on his own experiences playing war as a child, “like most other 12- and 13-year-old boys,” he said in a press release. Wilson, too, played war with his brothers when he was growing up and said much of the film was shot in places where they had played.
“It was easy to connect with the script and get inspired by the chance to re-create the feeling of those childhood hours before the streetlights came on,” Wilson said in the release. “Sure, it was serious. I mean, there were no parents or teachers to referee a game of war, and the politics of a 12-year-old are always serious, at least in the moment. At that age everything is either an epic success or a monumental failure, and the littlest things are critical, because it feels like it could be that way forever.”
Lapeyre said his script was partly motivated by what he saw as unrealistic portrayals of children in movies.
“I just wanted to tell an honest story about being that age,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of movies in which the kid characters are just shorter, stupider adults, and I wanted to write something that showed kids acting and talking like they really do.”
For Lapeyre’s young cast, that meant plenty of swearing, joking and bullying. And despite the film’s use of machine guns and hand grenades (whether water balloons or the real deal), Lapeyre said he never intended to make a statement about violence and young people.
“We wanted to tell a story about how intensely young people feel things, and how each moment is life-or-death at that age,” he said. “The guns in the film are a metaphor for how powerful their emotions are and how they turn those emotions on each other, even in an attempt to make friends.”
“I Declare War,” which was released by Drafthouse Films for digital download on iTunes and video-on-demand last month, is opening in theaters on Aug. 30.
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