A couple of years ago, John Boyega starred in a BBC3 docu-drama production based on the on the 2008 murder of teenager Shakilus Townsend titled "My Murder."
A second project based on that real-life case, which we first alerted you to last year, is now set to make its world premiere at the London Film Festival this week.
It’s an independent film, which, unlike the BBC3 docu-drama (mixed documentary and scripted elements), is entirely scripted, and will tell the story from a different POV. But more on that in a minute.
First, a quick recap…
Also known as the "Honeytrap murder," the true story follows how then 16-year-old Shakilus Townsend was lured to his death by a girl he really liked (Samantha Joseph, also 16), and whom he thought felt the same way about him, but apparently didn’t.
The troubling act that led to Townsend’s death, by Samantha Joseph, was all in an attempt to get back with her older ex boyfriend, Danny McLean.
She was dating both Townsend and McLean simultaneously; McLean eventually found out and dumped her. She wanted him back, and essentially made a pact with McLean that she’d bring Townsend to him for what was to be a thrashing.
Joseph led Townsend to McLean, who was with his brothers and friends (members of a South London gang), where Joseph was beaten with a baseball bat, and stabbed in the chest five times; he later died from huge amounts of blood loss.
The group responsible for his death, including the young lady who willingly lead him to it, were all convicted of murder in 2009.
In the BBC3 project, John Boyega played Shakilus Townsend, Simona Zivkovska was Samantha Joseph, and Malachi Kirby was the older Danny McLean. It aired in the spring of 2012.
In the indie feature film project, the story will unfold via the POV of the girl, Samantha Joseph.
Here’s the filmmaker’s description of it: "Yearning for love and status, fifteen-year-old Layla is swept into a whirlwind romance with self-styled gang leader/rapper Troy – and then spat out the other side. Desperate to win Troy back, Layla offers to set up the boy who’s in love with her to be killed… When the forces she sets in motion start to collide, Layla must choose: between two boys, between desire and friendship, between power and connection to another human being. We have not seen a character like Layla take centre stage before and it is time her story was told."
So it sounds like it might be more of an "inspired by" production than a direct translation of real-life events.
Previously titled "Honeytrap: Layla’s Story," the film is written and directed by Rebecca Johnson, a 10-year filmmaking veteran, who has directed several short films that have toured the international film festival circuit, winning acclaim and awards along the way.
Her "trademark style" includes utilizing drama workshops with non-actors from the communities in which her films are set, to generate material and pull out incredibly naturalistic performances from usually young, untrained actors.
And it looks like she and her production team have made "Honeytrap" in very much the same way: "We know HONEYTRAP is a contentious story. It not only tackles difficult issues without easy solutions but it is very different from other recent UK films set in gang culture. HONEYTRAP will feel more like independent US films such as Sin Nombre, Monster or Boys Don’t Cry. It will be cinematic and beautiful, capturing the yearning and obsessive fantasies that drive the story. We want to make it now. HONEYTRAP is a story with contemporary resonance that needs to be made and seen NOW! After three years of writing, we now have a story that is tight, heart-wrenching and extremely powerful. We are ready and we don’t want to wait!"
An IndieGoGo campaign with a $75,000 goal, was launched to help fund the film during the early half of last year. The campaign, went on to raise just over $40,000 – not the entire $75,000, but it looks like the project got the rest of the funding it needed from elsewhere – specifically, grants from the Walcot Foundation and Trusthouse Charitable Foundation; as well as an Anchor Bay pre-sale.
It was also previously announced that "Walking Dead" star Laurie Holden jump on-board the project as an executive producer.
The film stars "Skins" actress Jessica Sula, alongside Lucien Leon Laviscount, Ntonga Mwanza and Naomi Ryan.
Sarah Sulick of Bright Pictures is producing the low-budget indie drama, which was developed with the BFI/UKFC.
With its world premiere now officially set for this Friday, October 17, the filmmaker has released a brand new trailer for the film (what she refers to as a "Director’s Cut"), which features new footage, and is embedded below.
I should also note that the film is set for UK distribution via Anchor Bay Entertainment, with an early 2015 release eyed. Also worth noting, writer/director Rebecca Johnson is nominated for a Best British Newcomer award.
Wendy, who’s been reviewing films at the London Film Festival, for S&A, just might be seeing this one. So we might get a review.
In the meantime, watch the new trailer below: