Cargo is a realistic and powerful film that portrays a young boy’s descent into the world of child trafficking. Believing he is about to cross a border to a new life, the young runaway instead discovers he is to be sold as a human slave. Through a remarkable moment of pity, he is spared - but the reprieve comes at a huge personal cost.
DIRECTORS NOTES - Leo Woodhead
“I remember the moment the idea for Cargo popped into my head. A friend of mine was writing a script about restorative justice, and we got to talking about amnesty international and current topics in Europe. It was around the time of the Football World Cup in Germany, and there were a lot of reports about ‘legal’ brothels being set up to accommodate the whims of travelling fans. I got in touch with Amnesty and also La Strada, an organization that helps women and children without rights in countries like the Czech Republic, and they gave me some stories and facts to look over.
In the early drafts, I wanted to make the film from the trafficker’s point of view, but the more I tried to make him a sympathetic, rounded character, I realised the real heart of the story was about the effect he has on the people he takes. I thought a boy in the transition from child to man would be a good character, because he’s easily influenced by father figures, and his personality can be malleable. I’ve always had an interest in the parts of human nature that are cyclical. My first film, Sunday, deals with a son who ends up inheriting negative qualities from his father, and at a basic level, the trafficker and the boy mirror a father corrupting his son because he knows no other way to behave. The cyclical nature of violent behaviour towards others is a universal problem, and I think this is one of the reasons that the film strikes a chord with many people.
It was an unbelievably stressful experience making the film in a foreign country where I only had a small understanding of the language. I think the main reason we were able to get the film off the ground was my friendship with Director of Photography, Martin Preiss – who I met when he was studying here in New Zealand. He invested time and effort far beyond his exquisite shooting of the film - - he was with me at the auditions, meetings, location scouts – translating and creatively influencing throughout the entire process.
However, being an outsider did have certain advantages. Parts of the country just jumped out during location scouts, and I began to understand how it would feel for the boy in my film to be alone in a world with everything to lose. Plus, a lot of the crew were excited to be working with someone who had come so far. I think they saw that if I was this dedicated, then they were willing to give their time and hard work as well.
The decision to use a small crew worked for two reasons. It gave the film a documentary realism that Martin and I were looking for, and it also made us tighter as a group. A larger crew might have been perplexed by standing in a field in zero degree temperatures, waiting for a foreigner to set up a scene, but all of our crew gave so much time and energy, often doing two jobs at once.”