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SBS drama explores life and death of Van Nguyen, ‘the baby of death row’

Danielle Frazzetto

Mon Aug 06 2012


SBS’s new drama series, Better Man, will chronicle the confronting but powerful true story of Van Nguyen – the 25-year-old Australian hanged in Singapore in 2005. Danielle Frazzetto reports.

SBS’s new four-part mini series Better Man will explore the life and death of Van Nguyen, who was convicted of drug trafficking in Singapore and executed for his crime in 2005.

Nguyen was only 25-years-old when he died – a death that marked the first hanging of an Australian in Southeast Asia since 1993. And one that left all of Australia weeping for the boy known in Changi as “the baby of death row”.

The series will be SBS’s first commissioned drama series in three years and it will explore Van Nguyen’s childhood, which he shared with his twin brother, as well as his desperate attempts to provide for his family, for which he paid the ultimate price.

Better Man will also cover the three-year legal battle fought by Lex Lasry and Julian McMahon, which ultimately ended with Van Nguyen’s death sentence.


Director of TV and Online Content, Tony Iffland, says the series is one that is unique to Australia.

Better Man is a moving and important story told in a contemporary drama and reflects issues that affect our communities,” he says.

Fremantle Media Australia and Asia Pacific CEO Ian Hogg adds the show will be both upsetting but captivating.

“While this is a confronting story, the human side of it makes it a compelling one and we are extremely fortunate to be joining with SBS to be able to tell it,” he says.

FMA Creative Director and Executive Producer Jason Stephens says the show’s writer and director Khoa Do also significantly shaped the show, by applied meaning from his own life to the series.

“Khoa Do’s involvement brings a resonance to Better Man which no other writer could because of his own family history, along with his extraordinary talent and accomplishments,” he says.

Khoa Doa was awarded the Young Australian of the Year Award for his work in drama and with youths in Sydney’s southwest in 2005.

He was also nominated for an AFI Award in 2001 for his short film Delivery Day, which told the story of a young girl and her struggle to balance school, her mother and the family’s backyard sweatshop.

Production for Better Man commences in October in Melbourne and Vietnam with the series airing on SBS ONE in 2013.