New Year, 1919. The Great War is over. Some deaths are forgotten but others are a disgrace which gets hidden away in the history books, like those of the French "poilus" who mutinied in 1917 in protest against the senseless butchery and were shot by firing squad. Michel, aged 11, is the orphan child of one of them. Amid the devastation of the appalling Spanish Flu epidemic, he and three pals run away from the orphanage. Michel has but one aim in life : to kill General des Gringues, the so-called "Butcher of the Hurlus", who had his father executed.
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"The cinema has always been part of my life. I just had to find my own way. After a long spell as a photographer and great moments watching other people, I decided to start directing. But a full lenght film ? The famous, make-or-break debut feature ? Me? Impossible. Is that why film-making seemed out of bounds to me ? After trying a few adaptations I read Amila's book, "Le Boucher des Hurlus", and knew this was it. The story and the characters are driven along by the brute strength of young Michel searching for his background and the Truth. The people he meets reveal themselves in all their humanity, however simple or pathetic it may be. The subversive innocence of children faced with the shameful guilt of adults... "The terrible thing about this world is that everybody has his reasons", as Renoir says in "The Rules of the Game". It's this uncertainty that I wanted to film."