I Declare War follows a group of kids during a game of “War” as they become more and more obsessed with winning and increasingly more violent towards one another. Mixing elements of Lord of the Flies and The Goonies, the film also has nice subtle touches, such as a stick acting as a bazooka actually becoming a bazooka or sound effects of real grenades exploded as they throw balloons full of paint. It’s a unique film experience and with a tight script, excellent direction, and a wild young cast, it’s one we want to watch again and again.
Criticize This! spoke with directors Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson about the film, which is playing at the Toronto International Film Festival. Read our Q&A below.
Where did the idea for the film come from?
Jason: I wrote the script originally about 10 years ago. I wrote it because it was a movie I’d like to see myself. And part of it was that I wanted to write a story about being that age, 12 or 13, and I wanted to do it in a way that gave more respect to characters of that age. There’s this real trend in more mainstream movies of characters that age being shorter, stupider adults. And I wanted to treat them with decency and the emotional maturity that I know they have. It’s been done before very well in films like Stand By Me or The Goonies and I always felt those were such dignified, respectful portrayals of young people that I wanted to do that myself.
The kids were all amazing. Was it difficult to find them all?
Rob: Stephanie Gorin did our casting. We wanted a very real sense to the kids and their friendships and non-friendships and she presented us with amazing working actors in Toronto that she knew were there. So it was a lot easier than we expected in that respect.
How did you divide the directing duties?
Jason: It was very organic. There was no line between who did what. Two brains are more resourceful than one and it was all very conversational.
Rob: It had to be. We’re under fire in terms of making a movie with no money, our own money, in 20 days. And we’re dealing with young adults so we had to be flexible.
How is this film different from your previous work?
Rob: There’s a uniqueness that comes from working with this many young people at a summer camp closed scenario. They’re not worried about paying bills. They are able to put their entire lives aside and it was like being 12 again. And I hope the final product captured a bit of that.
Jason: The imaginative power of these kids was totally infectious so we found ourselves transported by their positive energy and commitment to the script.
How exciting is it for you both that the film is playing at TIFF?
Jason: On a scale of 1 to 10, approximately 80 million [laughs].
Rob: We couldn’t be happier for it to be launching at TIFF.
Jason: It’s a homerun for any filmmaker. It’s one of the five most prominent festivals in the world and we’re fully aware of the significance of premiering here in terms of the exposure it’s going to give the film and in terms of the prestige as filmmakers. It’s like we’re being welcomed to the club.
What do you hope the audience gets out of the film?
Jason: We just want people to be entertained. There’s no message, no hidden moral. The film is about being 12 and how when you’re a young person your feelings are very intense and you feel things very strongly. It people come away with a bit more empathy for people that age, that’s great. But by no means was there any intention to teach a lesson or give a message. We just want people to enjoy a well told story.
What’s next for the two of you?
Jason: We’re just trying to enjoy the heck out of the festival. I can’t see beyond September 16 at this point [laughs].
I Declare War screens at TIFF 2012 on Tuesday, September 11 at 2 p.m. at the Cineplex Yonge-Dundas and Friday, September 14 at 9:45 p.m. at the Scotiabank. Check out the trailer for the film below.
TIFF 2012 runs from September 6 – 16. For more information, visit tiff.net.
Top image: A scene from I Declare War. Courtesy TIFF.