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Human Cargo (2019)

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Human Cargo (2019)
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRory Joscelyne
Produced by
  • Rory Joscelyne
  • Alice Ryan
  • Samantha Anderson
  • Lewis Cartwright
  • Alice Ryan
Music byToby Dunham
CinematographyDaniel Keeble
Edited byRory Joscelyne
Cyberpunk Studios
Distributed byCyberpunk Studios
Release date
  • May 25, 2019 (2019-05-25) (United Kingdom)
Running time
15 minutes.[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom

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Human Cargo (2019) (also promoted as Human Cargo) is a 2019 British science fiction thriller film produced and directed by Rory Joscelyne, who wrote the script based on an unpublished novel treatment from 2009. The film stars Samantha Anderson, Lewis Cartwright, and Alice Ryan as its principal cast. Human Cargo (2019) follows Joanna Barnsley (Anderson) and her partner in the privatised police force Greg Snider (Cartwright) as they are tasked with hunting down women who breach childbirth laws. The emotional trauma of the task leaves Joanna questioning the morality of the job, and the question arises of the separation between law and morality.

Human Cargo (2019) was released in the United Kingdom on May 25, 2019 by Cyberpunk Studios[2], first playing at the Southend Film Festival[3] where it preceded the film Dogman_(film). It also played on June 9, 2019 at the Romford Film Festival, where it was nominated for three different movie awards - Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor and Havering Film. It was a critical success during both showings. Human Cargo (2019) then saw release on Blu-Ray and Amazon Prime Video on April 16, 2020 in both the United States and the United Kingdom. A feature film adaptation is in pre-production, with much of the original cast returning and an expansion on the themes of empathy, apathy and sociopathy within the structures of society.


In the very near future, a new law is implemented in the United Kingdom to enact brutal levels of population control. The only legal way to have a child is via a licence, which requires a minimum annual household income of £24,000 to qualify for one child. Those who fall below this margin, are banned from having children. SmartWatch technology is used to check the bloodstream and verify the existence of hCg hormones in the blood stream.

Officers Joanna Barnsley and Greg Snider are called to a lower class estate to apprehend a suspect, Diana Frederickson, whose Smartwatch has remained inactive since detecting a pregnancy several months prior. On arriving at her flat, the two officers are initially refused entry. Greg uses a thermal scan to call Diana's bluff on having a husband at the property, and threatens to kick the door in unless they are granted entry. Diana reluctantly opens the door and the officers enter. Joanna attempts to goad the truth out of Diana, but she is uncooperative. Greg's repeated barbs do nothing to deescalate the situation either. When Diana realises she has no way to lie out of the situation, she makes an impassioned plea to Joanna, hoping for some compassion to save her from being forced into being arrested. She is unsuccessful.

The officers take Diana to a hospital for 'processing'. When her name is called, and Diana gets a look at the operating table, she tries to bolt for the door. Quickly apprehended by Joanna and Greg, she is forced into the operating room and sedated - forced into undergoing a procedure for which she did not give her consent. As we see her fall unconscious to the general anaesthetic, we fade to a heart-rate monitor beating slower and slower until it finally switches off altogether. A time-lapse of the officers waiting plays out, fast-forwarding to Diana waking up from the anaesthetic and coming to the realisation that she is no longer an expectant mother. Her blood curdling screams affect Joanna deeply, and we focus on Joanna's guilty face as the scenery behind her fades into a cafe.

In the cafe, sat opposite Joanna, Greg attempts to cheer Joanna up. Greg's attempts at sympathising are as tone deaf as they are ignorant, leading to a heated debate between the two. Joanna no longer feels comfortable with the work they are doing, but Greg is steadfast in his belief in the system. It is revealed that Greg and Joanna have been having an affair (Behind his wife's back) and Greg simply didn't want to commit to a relationship because of Joanna's endometriosis, and her insistence that it has made her infertile. Joanna is offended by this and leaves Greg in the cafe alone, enraged that he'd use her health against her.

The next morning, as Joanna showers, her phone recieves a text message. There's an emergency parcel inbound for her address. As she leaves the shower, she sees the message just in time for the doorbell to sound, with a loud whirring all around her. She opens the front door to find a delivery drone has dropped a parcel at her doorstep. It takes three photos as evidence of a successful delivery and flies away. Joanna brings the parcel into the lounge, and we can clearly see the NHS logo on the package. On opening it, she finds a packet of termination tablets, indicating that her health scan shows she is pregnant. After a moment of elation at what appears to be a miracle baby, her joy turns to horror as she realises she doesn't earn enough to keep the baby. She crushes the box in her hand and throws it away, breaking into tears at this morbid realisation. The film ends with Joanna turning to the camera, leaving the film on a cliffhanger as to what she will do next.


  • Samantha Anderson as Joanna Barnsley
  • Lewis Cartwright as Greg Snider
  • Alice Ryan as Diana Frederickson



The initial novelisation of Human Cargo was written in 2009, but there were story differences and tonal changes. In the novel, Joanna was happily married to a man named Frank and planned to have a child with him. Greg was single, reclusive and grouchy. This dynamic made a massive difference to the relationship between the two, including never being a romantic pairing. The scale of the tech was vastly different too, with health scanners being installed in civilian showers/baths nationwide and drug disposal chutes in every home for the delivery of the medication. Diana actually attempted suicide in this version of the story (by attempting to hang herself) and we never saw her in the hospital, fundamentally changing her arc to the audience. A character called Rick Wade was also in this version, as the villain hunting Joanna down. Several story beats include Greg becoming handcuffed to Joanna as she tries to escape the airport, and becoming her hostage for the remainder of the novel. This original novel was then (mostly) lost in a hard drive failure in 2010, and was therefore never printed. Rory Joscelyne's first novel would instead be Imperial Nova in August 2014[4]

In 2018, after a horrible accident in which Rory Joscelyne broke his leg, a printed copy of the novel was discovered in his parent's house - albeit an incomplete version. Outside of a few additional scenes, the story was essentially just what was repurposed for this cinematic short film. Having also suffered the loss of a child from a miscarriage, Rory took the bones of what remained of the novel and made it focus on the anger, frustration and injustices he and his partner were going through at the time. Rather than being about an interesting "what-if" tale, it would instead be about the sense of loss, the unfair treatment of those who desperately wanted what was unjustly denied to them via no fault of their own. Joanna's backstory was rewritten to accommodate this theme, with the struggles of endometriosis serving to create more friction between the two officers. The technology was altered heavily to bring it up to date with more modern technology, but with a hint of futurism. A mobile phone camera that can use thermal imaging, Smartwatches for the health scans and drones used for the delivery of health products.


Principal photography spanned 3 days, between January 13, 2019, and January 15, 2019. The film was shot in reverse with the scenes at Joanna's flat being filmed first, and the opening drive into the estate being the final shot committed to film. Time was very tight due to the amount of filming required, and the need to build sets within locations. The hospital scene was filmed in The Victoria shopping centre in Southend-on-Sea, within a dance venue. The entire set was flat-packed and built on the morning of the second day, and angles were chosen to minimise the amount of location seen on film. The film was recorded onto a 4K lossless RAW digital film negative, via a BlackMagic URSA and edited in this resolution.


Human Cargo 2019 features mostly practical effects for the entire runtime, with the lo-fi feel allowing the production to utilise old technology such as CRTs to achieve a classic cyberpunk feel. The Thermal scan footage was a digital effect, however. Shot on a phone with a green screen, footage was taken of the door (and Joanna's knocking) and then of the door open with Diana in the doorway. These shots were manipulated by visual effects supervisor Stewart Cope to appear as a legitimate thermal scan in the final film. The transition effect from the hospital to the cafe was created by director Rory Joscelyne who had seen a similar technique utilised in the second pilot episode of Star Trek. In the second pilot Where No Man Has Gone Before, there is a turbo-lift scene in which a false wall was used to showcase the lower deck, which was removed during the single, long take to reveal the bridge once the turbo-lift doors reopened. This effect was used for a seamless transition by creating a false hospital wall, filming in the cafe location. The actor (Anderson) was instructed to stay motionless, after 10 seconds the wall was removed and held for another 10 seconds with the cafe in the background. This shot was edited into a cross fade in post production. This allowed the lighting to remain consistent, but didn't require the potentially damaging effects of green screen at such a low budget. This was demonstrated on one of the Blu-Ray extras (In the Blooper Reel) to reveal how the shot was composed.


The score by Toby Dunham was a unique work, designed to stress the emotional suffering shown in the short. There were two tracks omitted from the final film, both acoustic guitar tracks, that were intended to play in the cafe scene - these would have been distorted to sound as if they were playing out of a tinny radio in the location. These were dropped, however, when it became apparent that they distracted from the debate raging between the two officers on screen. The tracks were subsequently used in the Audio and Extras menus of the release Blu-Ray, and were re-inserted into the Blu-Rays Isolated Soundtrack audio option.


Human Cargo (2019) was shown for the first time at Southend Film Festival on May 25, 2019 where is was paired with feature film Dogman_(film). Following this, it was then shown with CineShots Festival via Pinewood Studios on May 30, 2019. It saw another festival appearance in the Romford Film Festival[5] on June 9, 2019 where it was nominated for three awards - in some instances it was the only short film in the category.


Year Award Category Recipient Result Reference
2019 Romford Film Festival Best Screenplay Rory Joscelyne Nominated [6]
Best Supporting Actress Alice Ryan Nominated
Havering Film Rory Joscelyne Nominated

Critical response[edit]

Human Cargo received generally positive reception during its appearances at film festivals in the United Kingdom, being nominated for three awards at the Romford Film Festival in June 2019.

UK Film Review[7][8] gave the film three stars, noting "The performances from the cast are appropriately raw, with several scenes for each of the three actors to dig their teeth into the characters. With a bigger budget and a green light, Human Cargo has the potential to be a feature hit." They also noted "I think the shorter runtime actually stops this from being greater.", and concluded "Human Cargo is an entertaining short, and shows that writer and director Rory Joscelyne certainly has some big ideas ready to be presented on-screen."


Home media[edit]

The short was released on Blu-Ray[9] in the United Kingdom in April 2020, which features a 1080p transfer with a 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track (as well as a secondary 2.0 Stereo audio track). It also included an array of extras including a Director's Commentary, Isolated Score, Blooper Reel, Behind-The-Scenes and a Deleted Scene[10]. The Blu-Ray is also region free.

On May 24, 2020 the short film was released onto Amazon Prime Video[11][12] to rent or buy, releasing in both the United Kingdom and the United States on the same day. While this included the subtitles of the Blu-Ray, the extras were not included.

Feature Length[edit]

Human Cargo (2019) is due to be followed by Human Cargo (2021). The short essentially makes up the first 15 minutes of the feature (though these will be re-shot for consistency), also written, directed and produced by Rory Joscelyne. This is due to continue the themes seen in the short film, as well as additional storylines around psychology, rebellion and an injection of more punk elements.


  1. "Human Cargo Video". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved November 15, 2019. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  2. "Human Cargo on Cyberpunk Studios' Website". Cyberpunk Studios. Archived from the original on June 12, 2020. Retrieved June 12, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  3. "Human Cargo at Southend Film Festival". Southend Film Festival. Archived from the original on June 12, 2020. Retrieved June 12, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  4. "Imperial Nova on Amazon". Amazon UK. Archived from the original on June 12, 2020. Retrieved June 12, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  5. "Human Cargo at Romford Film Festival". Romford Film Festival. Retrieved June 12, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  6. "Human Cargo Awards". Twitter. Retrieved June 12, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  7. "UK Film Review". UK Film Review. Retrieved June 27, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  8. "UK Film Review". UK Film Review. Archived from the original on 2020-06-27. Retrieved June 27, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  9. "Human Cargo Blu-Ray". Amazon UK. Retrieved June 12, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  10. "Human Cargo Blu-Ray Extras". Cyberpunk Studios. Archived from the original on June 12, 2020. Retrieved June 12, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  11. "Human Cargo Amazon Prime Video". Amazon UK. Retrieved June 12, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  12. "Human Cargo Amazon Prime Video". Amazon_(company). Retrieved June 12, 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)

External links[edit]

{{Rory Joscelyne}}

Others articles of the Topics Film AND United Kingdom : Chicken Run 2

Others articles of the Topics Film AND Science fiction : Aleksandar B. Nedeljković

Others articles of the Topic Film : The Golden Age (2019 film), Casey Calvert, Batgirl (upcoming film), Salman Khan, Ishaan Khatter, Blue Cha Cha, Aangan (1959 film)

Others articles of the Topic United Kingdom : London, Padworth Lock, Scottish Young Labour, Mine All Day, Chicken Run 2, Birdie (Street Fighter), Curious Brewery

Others articles of the Topic Science fiction : Aleksandar B. Nedeljković, Portals in fiction, Richard Paolinelli, The Henry Stickmin Collection

Category:2019 films Category:2010s science fiction action films Category:British films Category:Dystopian films Category:English-language films Category:Fictional portrayals of the London Police Department Category:Fictional wars Category:British films about injustice Category:Films about technological impact Category:Films directed by Rory Joscelyne Category:Films produced by Rory Joscelyne Category:Films produced by Alice Ryan Category:Films scored by Toby Dunham Category:Films set in 2025 Category:Films set in London Category:Films set in hospitals Category:Films set in the future Category:Films shot in Southend-on-Sea Category:Films shot in England Category:Cyberpunk Studios films Category:Nanotechnology in fiction Category:Films with screenplays by Rory Joscelyne Category:Techno-thriller films Category:Cyberpunk films


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