Better Man (TV miniseries)
|Directed by||Khoa Do|
|Produced by||Stephen Corvini|
|Screenplay by||Khoa Do|
|Based on||See Research|
|Music by||Matteo Zingales|
|Cinematography||Peter A. Holland ACS|
|Edited by||Rodrigo Balart|
|Distributed by||SBS International|
Better Man was an Australian television drama mini-series which originally screened on SBS TV in July 2013, and replayed in February 2014. The four-part series was produced by Fremantle Media Australia in association with Bravado Productions. It was written and directed by Khoa Do and Produced by Stephen Corvini. It starred David Wenham, Bryan Brown, Claudia Karvan and newcomer Remy Hii. According to SBS, Better Man had the most "star studded lineup" in the network's history.
Better Man was researched and developed by Stephen Corvini, Khoa Do and Timothy Hobart for over three years prior to the series’s production. Van’s lawyer Julian McMahon was a consultant on the miniseries as were Van’s closest confidantes prior to his execution, his best friends Kelly Ng, Bronwyn Lew and Goldgan Ng. All four had been present during Van’s final visit.
Better Man was written by Do based on extensive interviews, Van’s personal letters, court transcripts, his arrest statements and his clemency appeal.
Production and filming took place in Melbourne, Australia and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Oct - Dec 2012. Scenes depicting Singapore Changi Airport, Changi Prison and the courtroom in the High Court of Singapore, among other settings, were all filmed in Melbourne with the Cambodian and Vietnamese scenes being filmed in Vietnam.
Exactly how much risk would you take to save your family? For Van Nguyen the answer was whatever it takes and the devastating consequence of his attempt to traffic heroin from Cambodia to Australia via a change of planes in Singapore was that the 396 grams of drugs that he was discovered carrying was enough to incur the death penalty – 26 times over.
Better Man is based on the true story of Van Tuong Nguyen, a 25-year-old Vietnamese-Australian man who was arrested in Singapore, convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced with the death penalty in 2005.
The series follows the story of a young man who had a tough but loving upbringing with his twin brother and devoted mother. The story culminates in an extraordinary three-year legal battle to save the life of Nguyen, led by Julian McMahon, a Melbourne lawyer, and Lex Lasry QC, a Melbourne barrister.
Production and filming of this mini-series was not met without controversy. Van Tuong Nguyen's family had stated that the movie had "reopened old wounds", and his mother, Kim, had declined to contribute to the development of the project with and called for the film maker to drop the project. Additionally, Lex Lasry, who acted as a lawyer for Nguyen prior to his execution in 2005, condemned the series, calling it an "untruthful soap opera" and saying that it continued to cause stress to the family. Subsequently, SBS inserted a disclaimer stating that the Nguyen family "had no direct participation" in filming of the movie.
Better Man received glowing reviews, with critics commenting on the exceptional performances of the cast and the gripping nature of Do's storytelling. David Knox in TV Tonight called the show "the best local drama of the year", Dianne Butler in The Herald Sun praised it as "the most gripping TV drama of the year", The Australian's Lyndall Crisp selected Better Man as its "pick of the week" and mentioned that Better Man was "harrowing but well worth watching". The Sydney Morning Herald's Gordon Farrer also selected Better Man as its "Show of the Week" and praised the production, stating that Better Man's "script is sharp and moving; the direction is confident and effective. This is a moving story that gains power from the telling. Compulsory viewing". TV Tonight also listed Better Man in its "Top 5 Shows of 2013", and ranked it number one in Australian television shows for the year.
- David Wenham as Julian McMahon
- Bryan Brown as Lex Lasry
- Claudia Karvan as McMahon's wife Bernadette
- Remy Hii as Van Tuong Nguyen
- Jordan Rodrigues as Khoa Nguyen
- Sachin Joab as Inspector Ramesh
- Felino Dolloso as Alan
- Hien Nguyen (real life mother of Anh and Khoa Do) as Kim Nguyen
- Airdate: Better Man, TV Tonight, 19 June 2013
- Better Man replay, TV Tonight, 1 February 2014
- Making Better Man, mUmBRELLA, 22 July 2013
- Hardie, Giles (7 July 2013). "Burke recalls failed plea as 'worst day' of his career". Sun-Herald. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
- PM - SBS criticised for Van Nguyen hanging film 24/07/2013, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
- TV drama on executed Aussie drug trafficker sparks controversy, The Straits Times
- Better Man on SBS | Judge condemns Nguyen execution drama, The Age
- David Wenham proud of Better Man's message, TV Tonight, 30 July 2013