Co-produced and co-written with Brian McKeown (Howe Sound Films)
A global panorama of grief, treachery, and nobility unravels in Human Cargo, a CBC TV miniseries that pulls no punches and pushes plenty of buttons in its depiction of Canada’s role in the plight of Third World refugees.
– Canadian Press
The power of these scenes and the unforgettable drama of the refugee tribunal hearings are a testament to the years of research by writers and producers Linda Svendsen and Brian McKeown.
– The Globe and Mail
The genius of Human Cargo is that it transcends simple portrayal. It neither hectors nor offers glossy, politically correct stereotypes. Each character is fully formed, a tangle of dreams and contradictions. In an engaging and brilliant way, it lifts the veil on the immigrant experience.
– Toronto Star
The ambitious miniseries weaves the stories of several characters from different worlds into a single tapestry of vibrant and shocking images. McKeown and Svendsen write with an impressive, understated poignancy.
– TV Times
A television drama that also doubles as blatant political propaganda can leave viewers feeling patronised and exhausted. When the lines between fiction and documentary are blurred, it requires a lot of effort to find the story and sift out the spin. That said, just sometimes a drama series pursues a particular political line in the name of education and still remains compelling TV. Human Cargo is a six part Canadian drama that achieves this…[and] throws up the same questions that have dominated Australia’s political landscape.
– The Australian
The experience of co-creating Human Cargo, from hearing in 1992 about IRB members exchanging scathing notes about a refugee applicant, to several turndowns on the pitch, to CBC’s development in 1998, the shoot in South Africa in 2003 under the direction of the brilliant and unflappable Brad Turner, to the Peabody and other awards, and the response of viewers world-wide–this project remains the creative highlight of my life.
After 2001, Brian and I found the focus for our fictional refugee lawyer and the six hour miniseries took off–to the extent that while one of us picked up the kids from hockey, the one back at home grilled chicken and buttoned the episode. We teamed up with Force Four Entertainment and we connected with the right people at the right time in the research process: lawyer Phil Rankin, Christine Tokar at the Red Cross, NGOs overseas, Merlin in London, the UNHCR, and more, and people were generous with personal stories, intimate details.
I loved being involved with the production from start to finish: casting, the shoot, editing, the score, and CBC’s promotion. Yes, there were a few arguments in the editing room, and a tussle with CBC about the title (formerly Third World), but creative disagreement is part of the process. The quote we used at the top of the script:
Every exile makes his own map.
– Derek Walcott
Peabody Award, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication
Distinction, Rencontres Internationales de Television, France
Robert W. Wagner Award, Screenplay, Columbus International Film and Television Festival
Bronze Plaque, Columbus International Film and Television Festival
Human Cargo: Top Five at MIPCOM (Hollywood Reporter)
Gemini Award, Screenplay
Gemini Award, Best TV Movie/Miniseries
Gemini Awards for Direction, Best Supporting Actress, Editing, Production Design, Score
Gemini Nominations for Sound, Best Actor (2), Best Actress, Cinematography, Costume Design, Best Supporting Actor (2), Best Supporting Actress (2)
Directors Guild of Canada Awards, Best Director and Team
Co-nominee, Canadian Screenwriting Awards
Rockie Award, nominee, Best International miniseries
Leo Award, Screenplay
Leo Award, Best Television Series
Leo Awards for Editing, Best Supporting Actor
Leo Nominations for Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Production Design, Score, Sound, Best Supporting Actor