Jordan is a femme gay man – a label he wears proudly. But every time he steps out of the house with his lipstick on, he remembers his dad’s stark warning: the world will always be a dangerous place for a boy like him. After suffering heartbreak at a nightclub, Jordan meets Wes, a drug dealer, out on the street. Wes is flirtatious, masculine, and exactly the kind of boy Jordan’s dad warned him about. Throwing caution to the wind, Jordan gets in Wes’ car, and the night takes a dangerous turn… 

Writer/director duo Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping’s FEMME takes a traditionally testosterone-drenched genre and flips it, reimagining the darker edge of London’s nightlife through a queer lens. It was born of their love for the crime-thriller genre, but also – as queer artists – out of feeling excluded from it. We caught up with the pair to talk masculinity and queer culture. 

 

Congratulations and thank you for FEMME. Not to disparage the short film genre at all, but the story could make for a full-length film too, couldn’t it? 

Definitely – we wrote the plot for this one to fit the short film form and would be wary to try and stretch its specific scenario too far, but we’re excited about making a feature film in the same world with similar ideas and themes. 

 

Ng Choon Ping – Has your theatre background influenced this film in any way? 

I was confident allowing a scene to develop over single long takes. I was also very comfortable working with actors. I found many skills transferrable, like composing a frame and managing the rhythm of scenes. 

 

Sam H. Freeman – Jordan’s dad warns him, “there are always going to be boys who want to hurt you.” Why then does Jordan still get in the car with Wes? 

Because you always hope that this boy will be different, don’t you? That this boy will heal all the hurts from the boy before. Wes seems so flirtatious and exciting, there’s an attraction to the danger.  And let’s be honest with ourselves: do we always heed our parents’ advice? 

The club at the beginning of the film is similar in terms of lighting and atmosphere to the house where things get dangerous – was this deliberate? 

Yes – we wanted a vibrant film, where intense colours can express opposites of emotion, from warm and joyous to hectic and dangerous. The things that make Jordan powerful in one world leave him vulnerable in another. 

 

And it’s interesting that Wes says the club “seems kind of mad” when he lives every day in a house of truly dark happenings… 

Wes’ words are a kind of deflection – perhaps he wishes he dared to go into the club. Also, the house he lives in is home to him, what’s dark to us is normal to him. 

 

Is home a theme in the film? 

In a way, the club is a kind of home for Jordan, and the drug house is Wes’ – the film is about two worlds colliding, about stepping into alien worlds. Jordan entering Wes’ home is dangerous for Jordan, but Wes is also courting disaster by bringing Jordan into his home. 

 

The film’s leads, Paapa Essiedu (I May Destroy You) and Harris Dickinson (Beach Rats), have both appeared on screen in queer roles – did this influence their casting? 

We cast Paapa before I May Destroy You was released, and I think with Harris it was pretty coincidental too – we were really just going for the best actors we could! 

 

I suppose each of the men in the house has their own story too – do you think about each and every one of those stories when making a film like this? 

Definitely – thematically the film deals with different representations of masculinity, and so we talked a lot about this. We also talked to each actor about their character’s backstory.  

What’s the significance of lipstick in FEMME? 

It’s a symbol of defiance – Jordan’s dad warns him about boys putting on makeup, and we then immediately see the adult Jordan put on makeup and venture out into the night. 

 

What are you reading, watching and listening to right now? 

Euphoria, Drag Race, re-watching Atlanta, re-reading The Remains of the Day, listening to 刘明珠. 

 

With LGBTQ+ History Month here, could you tell us your favourite depictions of queer history? 

Tom of Finland artwork. 

 

What else is on your agenda?  

We have a pretty exciting announcement coming up! Can’t say too much yet, but watch this space. 

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