ALREADY predicted to be one of the British films of the year, Rebecca Johnson’s feature film debut Honeytrap is showing at the Colchester Film Festival’s Unseen Cinema event this Friday, May 1, a week before it goes on general release across the country.
The director will also be taking part in a Q&A about Honeytrap with members of the cast after the screening, so it’s a great chance to question her about the film and find out what it takes to make such an original and distinctive piece of cinema.
Set on the mean streets and tough estates of south London, Honeytrap centres on Layla, a 15-year-old girl who is desperate to fit in and be accepted by her peers but finds herself embroiled in a tangled and ultimately tragic series of events that leads to a boy being stabbed to death.
An unflinching look at the pressures and expectations on teenagers among contemporary gang culture, Honeytrap was inspired by actual events but Rebecca is quick to point out that it’s a work of fiction that draws on how life really is in some inner cities in the UK.
“The case took place in south London, places like Brixton, Croydon and Norwood are all networked up. There are lots of incidences of young kids getting mixed up in violence but this one made the papers because a girl was involved and she was just 15.
“The way it was reported was shocking. It was a 15-year-old child and she was being characterised as a femme fatale. It was such a shocking way of portraying it. It made her seem like an adult and she was just a kid. It refused to acknowledge the reality of the situation, the situation these kids find themselves in.”
What marks out Honeytrap from other depictions of gang culture in Britain is that it’s told from a female perspective, not just because Layla is the main character but also with Rebecca directing and writing.
“It’s high time we saw a girl’s side of something like this,” Rebecca says. “It’s much more interesting to see the female perspective rather than just the ‘good girl’ or ‘bad girl’ stereotype of women.”
But Rebecca stresses that this isn’t just a film about girls in this situation, it’s also about boys and how they get drawn into some extreme behaviour.
“I was interested in making the film tense and exciting, showing how tough this world can be and how you can get wrapped up in it. I also wanted to show the vulnerability in the boys, how they have the pressure of keeping up a persona, the machismo, and they can’t always do that.
“I know lots of young people who have been involved in violence, both as victims and perpetrators. It’s really awful but they’re not what you think. They say hello, they’re really sweet, they don’t seem tough. To me it’s just tragic because they’re not tough, they’re just trying to prove they’re something they’re not. They’ll be violent because that’s the expectation of what they’ll do.”
What impact does Rebecca hope Honeytrap might have?
“Little changes can happen,” she says. “People see things differently when they step into someone else’s shoes. Films can’t cause huge social change by themselves but if a lot of people see the film you hope it can help change people’s perceptions a bit”
The advance screening of Honeytrap is showing at firstsite, Colchester at 7.30pm on Friday, May 1. There’ll be a Q&A with Rebecca Johnson and the cast after the screening. A pop-up bar will be open from 7pm.
Tickets are £6, £3.50 concessions, £3 members.
More details and bookings at http://www.firstsite.uk.net/page/honeytrap
By Darryl Webber
Journalist, writer, blogger