It was news that shook the English-speaking world. Celebrated British explorer Sir John Franklin and his crew of 128 men had perished in the Arctic ice during an ill-fated attempt to discover the Northwest Passage. More shocking, they had descended into madness and cannibalism.

The report came in 1851, from John Rae, a Scottish doctor working for the Hudson's Bay Company. Travelling thousands of miles on foot and in small craft, Rae had done what six years of searching by the British, Americans, French and Russians had failed to do - discover the fate of Franklin and unlock the final link in the Passage - a 300-year-old dream.

But Rae's horrific news did not sit well with Sir John's widow, Lady Franklin, nor with many others in British society, including Charles Dickens. They waged a bitter public campaign that would discredit Rae's version of events, banish him to the margins of history and mark an entire nation of northern Inuit with the horrifying label of murderous cannibals.

With Passage, filmmaker John Walker employs an innovative approach to structuring the incredible multilayered story of John Rae and brings it to vibrant life. Using a unique blend of dramatic action, and behind-the-scenes documentary footage, Walker pulls back the curtain on his own research into Rae's life and that of his actors, as they determine how to portray the characters and scenes in the film. The line between real and dramatic begins to blur as we move closer and closer to the film's cilimax, a stunning face-to-face meeting between Charles Dickens's great-great grandson and Tagak Curley, an honoured Inuit statesman who challenges the fraudulent history. In one moment, Walker vaults the story from the past into the present and we are witness to history in the making.

Set in the actual locations of Rae's journey, from his boyhood home in the remote Orkney Islands off Scotland's north coast to the epic landscape of his Arctic expeditions to the boardroom of the British Royal Navy - the centre of power of the British Empire, Passage is a story of incredible sacrifice, stunning distortion of the truth and single-minded obsession. It challenges the way we look at history.

Pedagogical evaluations and study guides are only available to CAMPUS subscribers.


Features designed specifically for teachers

Learn more   Already subscribed? Sign in.


John Walker
John Walker
Andrea Nemtin
Kent Martin
John Walker
executive producer
Bill Nemtin
director of photography
Kent Nason
Jeff Warren
John Brett
Alex Salter
Jim Rillie
music composer
Jonathan Goldsmith
Rick Roberts
Geraldine Alexander
David Acton
Andrew Alston
Shaun Austin-Olsen
Nigel Bennett
Alistair Findlay
Colin George
Patrick Godfrey
Simon Slater
James Wallace
Guy Oliver-Watts
Gerald Dickens
Marlene Rassmusen
Bernadette Dean
camera operator
Becky Parsons
costume design
Sue Thomson
Emma Fryer
Lisa J. Robbie
hair design
Lisa J. Robbie
production designer
Emanuel Jannasch
Kyle Cameron
set designer
Karen Toole
Jeanie Kimber
Barbara Sears
Elizabeth Klinck
Concetta Principe
sound editor
Alex Salter
re-recording mixer
Allan Scarth


  • waterlou25

    “Wow, this film was very good! I had never heard about this story before and it was great to hear about it in such a way. Having reenactments as well as present-day footage of the people filming gives much more of an emotional impact. The scene at the end in the conference room was very heartwarming. ” — waterlou25, 29 Sep 2014

Discuss this film Please sign in to add your comment
Not a member ? Click here