BritBox crime drama “Honour” was a project six years in the making. It follows the real-life story of Banaz Mahmod, a young Londoner who went missing in 2006, and detective Caroline Good’s mission to bring her justice. Developing the story for television required a respectful approach, which translated to a lot of research.
“It’s a very, very different, very difficult, very complex story to take in,” Keeley Hawes, who plays Goode, told senior editor Michael Schneider in the Variety Streaming Room. “It’s so informative about a subject that so many people know little about.”
“Honour” centers around an honor killing, in which a family will kill a member of their family in the belief that they have brought dishonor or shame. For writer Gwenyth Hughes, it was crucial to have an insider’s perspective, one that was on the younger side, to appropriately portray the story that unfolds around an honor killing. That meant getting to know Mahmod’s sisters and her boyfriend.
“There’s no point going to elders because they aren’t going to be, to put it mildly, much help,” Hughes said. “I talked only to those people who were centrally involved in it. They were amazing.”
Hughes said she had piles of paperwork to attest to the six years worth of research. Producer Alliea Nazar attributed research as the “backbone” of the project, noting the string of people they consulted to ensure the story was told right: case experts, linguists, dialect coaches, people from the Muslim and Kurdish community, a former crime prosecutor.
“I definitely feel that the research and speaking directly to all of those people involved has rooted and very much anchored the project in authenticity and not sensationalism and fetishism of the community, either, and not demonizing a community,” Nazar said. “We tried to present a honest, but balanced perspective of the crime that happened. Hopefully, we’ve done that.”
For director Richard Laxton, the key was to pull forward each of the central character’s humanity. He didn’t want to detach the audience by focusing too much on the time period, which he explained would give people an “excuse to not engage fully emotionally with their conscience.”
“Everything has to be appropriate to the kind of delicacy and responsibility that we have telling this story to Banaz, to her family members who were also victims of honor-based abuse, and then to connect that to the audience so that people in their position who watch this can make the phone call and go, ‘Actually, I’m in trouble,’ Laxton said.
Producer Liza Marshall emphasized their driving mission was to highlight the issue of honor-based violence. She said the featured helplines saw call rates go up.
“It’s a crime that’s hidden in shame. To give women and girls the confidence to speak out and to find their voices and to ring these helplines and try and get out of the difficult situations that they might be in is really important,” Marshall said. “Personal action can make all the difference.”