Passage is the true story of John Rae (1813-1893), the Hudson's Bay Company doctor who solved the two great mysteries of the 19th Century: the fate of the doomed Sir John Franklin expedition, and the location of the last navigable link in the North West Passage. For twelve years after the disappearance of Franklin and his 130 men, the equivalent of 80 million dollars was spent on 40 ships sent in search of them. Using the ways of the Inuit, Rae discovered his fate, but his findings included the tragic news that the Franklin crew had resorted to cannibalism, and it was this truth that was his undoing.

Lady Franklin with her ally Charles Dickens waged a media campaign to discredit John Rae. They restored honor and glory to Sir John and cast doubt and disgrace upon Rae and the Inuit people. The campaign was successful and John Rae, who was formerly hailed as "a genius of Arctic travel," remained on the fringe of Arctic history. He had traveled 23,000 miles on foot and in small boats mapping and searching for Franklin and yet he was the only Arctic explorer who never received a knighthood for his accomplishments.

Shot on Super 16mm, in the breathtaking landscapes of the Arctic and the Orkney Islands and the intensity of the original Admiralty headquarters in London, we use the best techniques of drama and documentary to explore the present relevance of these past events.

The approach to historical content is original. We will film the dynamic process of discovery as a cast (including writer and director) creates an interpretation of this adventure story while they prepare and workshop a feature film script. Replacing the dry narrative approach to historical documentary, this innovative technique combines actors with experts in a search for the truth. Through them we confront both historical and contemporary biases around this controversial story.

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2 x 60 minutes and 1 x 120 minutes


Director: John Walker
Starring: Rick Roberts and Geraldine Alexander
DOP: Kent Nason
Editors: Jeff Warren, John Brett
Composer: Jonathan Goldsmith


2010 Gemini Award Nomination for BEST HISTORY DOCUMENTARY PROGRAM and 
“BEST WRITING IN DOC or SERIES” nomination: John Walker for Passage
Winner of Erik Barnouw Award - Organization of American Historians (OAH), 2010
Winner of The Silver Chris Award - Columbus International Film + Video Festival, AKA The Chris Awards
Shortlisted for Best Historical Documentary - Grierson Award, 2009
Official Selection - Rencontres Internationale du Documentaire de Montréal 2009
Official Selection - Alianait Arts Festival 2009
Winner Best Canadian Film - Banff World Television Awards 2009
Winner in Documentary Category - 13th Annual WGC Screenwriting Awards, 2009
Winner of Best Picture - Reel 2 Real International Film Festival for Youth 2009
Winner of Best Documentary Programme - CFTPA Indie Awards 2009
Winner, John Walker for Best Director and Kent Nason for The Ed Higginson Cinematography - Atlantic Film Festival Award 2009
Official Selection - Available Film Festival of Light 2009
Official Selection - Vancouver International Film Festival 2008
Official Selection - Hot Docs Festival 2008
Official Selection - Sunny Side of The Doc 2008
Official Selection - Atlantic Film Festival 2008


"... one of the great triumphs in Canadian documentary film history."
The Toronto Star