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Rave-Culture Feature 'Human Traffic' Makes U.S. Debut

UK flick depicts a fun-filled weekend of clubbing, with Fatboy Slim and Underworld on soundtrack.

Justin Kerrigan, writer and director of the new rave-culture film "Human Traffic," had one request for musical supervisor and influential BBC DJ Pete Tong: Primal Scream's "Come Together."

"I fought for that to be the ending song," Kerrigan said late Wednesday before going out for a routine night of clubbing. "It's my favorite song of all time. I think it's the perfect tune to really capture the feeling of the rave culture — the coming together through people."

"Human Traffic," which was released in the UK last year and will open in more than 20 U.S. cities starting Friday (May 12), echoes Primal Scream's message (RealAudio excerpt of song) of friends coming together — specifically for a weekend of nonstop clubbing.

The movie chronicles five friends with their own unique tribulations as they struggle to put them aside with the aid of laughter, ecstasy and dance ditties by the likes Fatboy Slim's "Build It Up, Tear It Down," Death In Vegas' "Dirt" (RealAudio excerpt) Underworld's "Kittens" and Armand van Helden's "Flowerz" (RealAudio excerpt).

"They've all got problems — paranoia, anxiety, stress, family, friends, relationships — but when it comes to Friday, they all just go, 'F--- it, I'm going to go out and have a blast,' " Kerrigan said. "That's what it's about, basically. Living for the weekend. It's a very personal film about me and my friends. Everything in 'Human Traffic' pretty much happened."

A Life Of Nightlife

Kerrigan, 25, grew up in Cardiff, Wales, where he began going to clubs at 14. He attended the International Film School of Wales and directed six films before graduating. One of his professors, Allan Niblo, offered to produce Kerrigan's feature debut, which prompted the young writer to pen a script about what he knew best — raving.

"In Britain, it's the first film to represent the movement," Kerrigan said. "But the culture's been going for 12 years. The reason I think it's so big is that it brings people together from all different classes and races and sexualities. And everyone just gets together on the dance floor and has a blast."

Though Kerrigan has embraced the riotous lifestyle his characters portray, he spoke of rave culture as a student rather than as a ringleader.

"It's the first youth culture ever to be legislated through the courts," he explained. "What's going on in America now reminds me of what happened around 1993 in Britain. Ecstasy and rave culture were getting a lot of bad publicity and they tried to control it in Britain and ban raves. Basically, young people were forced into clubs where they could be controlled, and as soon as that happened, it just blew up and went mainstream."

It was that scene where Kerrigan met his girlfriend and group of friends. They were all working what he calls "McJobs."

"We didn't know what we're doing," he explained. "Just hitting clubs, dropping ecstasy, meeting new people. Fundamentally, I think everyone can relate to a lost weekend. Whether your choice of drug is ecstasy or alcohol or whatever, everyone can relate to releasing pressure and going bananas."

By going to raves, Kerrigan was introduced to some of his favorite DJs, such as Sasha, Tong and Carl Cox. He asked the latter to play a small role in "Human Traffic" and the DJ eagerly accepted.

"Carl was wicked," Kerrigan said. "You can't not like Carl. He's a gentle giant, full of fun."

Cox took the evil role of Pablo Hassan because he was attracted to the script. "It's what dance music and club culture is all about," he said. "I'm looking forward to seeing how the American audience responds. I think 'Go' is excellent, and some of the things in ['Human Traffic'] are quite alike. This is our version of what was portrayed in 'Go.' "

Not Your Average Club Crawl

Kerrigan, who praised "Go" for its "Pulp Fiction"-like cinematography, said its similarities to "Human Traffic" end with the club setting.

"It was about the drug deal, and everything revolved around that. Whereas in 'Human Traffic,' there's only one problem that's actually resolved," he said. "If I tied anything else up at the end of the film, it wouldn't have been a real weekend."

There is no drug deal in "Human Traffic" or scenes showing ecstasy, but Kerrigan was still forced to deal with anti-drug sentiment.

"We couldn't get any investment out of Britain whatsoever, because it's un-moralistic about the use of recreational drugs — i.e., nobody dies at the end," Kerrigan said. "But what I was trying to do was base it on personal experience."

Kerrigan created the rave scenes in the film with real people from the UK scene. He placed advertisements in music magazines and bused in ravers to the set everyday.

"They came ready to party and it was f---ing crazy," he said. "And there were some drugs on the set."

Kerrigan's substance consumption during "Human Traffic" came in the form of cigarettes, which he chain-smoked in times of anxiety, such as the first time he met Tong.

"I was really nervous sitting there with Pete — somebody that's lived the scene much longer than me," he said. "I was shitting myself. He came and saw the film in its late form and loved it. He wanted to be a part of it."

Tong was immediately offered the music-supervisor position, and he gathered a soundtrack of artists highlighted by William Orbit, Pete Heller, Aphrodite, Orbital, Cox and others.

"Pete was in the perfect position to get the music we needed," Kerrigan said. "Music is such a huge part of the weekend. It had to be there to tell the story, and at the same time I wanted to represent the different genres of dance music that are dominant in Britain.

"Of course, I had the final say on what went in."