November 2002
Rabbit-Proof Fence :

Reviewed by Wilson Morales

Rabbit-Proof Fence

Rabbit-Proof Fence Movie Poster
Distributor: Miramax
Director: Phillip Noyce
Producer: Phillip Noyce, Christine Olsen, & John Winter
Screenwriter: Christine Olsen, based on the book “Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence” by Doris Pilkington Garimara
Music: Peter Gabriel
Cast: Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, Laura Monaghan, Kenneth Branagh, & David Gulpilil
Running Time: 94 min  

Often we see countless films, whether it is on the big or small screen, where the pursuit for freedom comes in many ways. There have been plenty of stories about freedom from oppression, freedom from poverty, and (left to right) Laura Monaghan as Gracie, Tianna Sansbury as Daisy and Everlyn Sampi as Molly in Phillip Noyce’s RABBIT-PROOF FENCE. freedom from slavery. Many races (Native-American Indians, African-Americans, and Jews) have had parts of their stories told. One story that hasn’t been told is that of the Aborigine. Much of what we have seen on the big screen has been in commercial films such as “Crocodile Dundee”. Here comes a film that is true, emotionally powerful, and one of the year’s best. Based on the biographical book by Doris Pilkington, and directed by Phillip Noyce, RABBIT-PROOF FENCE is an amazing story of intelligence, strength, and conviction that will tug at your heart.

When European settlers first arrived in Australia, there was an almost immediate conflict between the recent arrivals and the nation's indigenous people, whose rich cultural heritage which bore little resemblance to that of the Europeans. By the mid-19th century, when white settlers had gained political control of the continent, many aborigines found themselves removed from their lands and their children taken from them, under the belief that the youngsters would be better off in a more "civilized" environment. Through most of the 20th century, it was official government policy that half- or quarter-caste indigenous children were to be taken from their families and raised as "white" children in orphanages, where they would be trained to work as domestic servants or laborers. In 1931, Molly (Evelyn Sampi) and her younger cousins, Gracie (Laura Monaghan) and Daisy (Tianna Sansbury), were three half-caste children from Western Australia who were taken from their parents under government edict and sent to an institution, where they were subject to physical and emotional abuse as they were taught to forget their families, their culture, and their lives up to that point and re-invent themselves as members of "white" Australian society. Gracie and Daisy cling to Molly for support, and Molly decides they need to return to their parents. Molly plans a daring escape, and the three girls begin an epic journey back to Western Australia, travelling 1,500 miles on foot with no food or water, and navigating by following the fence that has been build across the nation to stem an over-population of rabbits. As word gets around that the girls have been making some progress in the route home, the Chief Protector of Aborigines, A.O Neville (Kenneth Branaugh) sends his best tracker Moodoo (David Gulpilil) to bring the girls home.

The heart of the film is the story. Christine Olsen’s screenplay speaks many volumes without going overboard on the political issues and violence. The importance of family is heavily conveyed and the three girls are excellent are excellent in demonstrating the need for it. Directed Noyce hadn’t made a film in his homeland in 12 years and this was the right time and right story for him to go back home. When you have a true story that needs to be told it your job to tell it and film it the way it was written without any manipulation, and Noyce had done a tremendous job in doing so. The cinematography by Christopher Doyle and the music by Peter Gabriel capture the essence of the Aborigine culture. The performances by the three are wonderful. Although he doesn’t say much, David Gulpilil’s presence as the tracker is outstanding. At a time, when many will see lots of big-budgeted films for the holiday and Oscar season, go see RABBIT-PROOF FENCE because it’s great and uplifting.

 

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