Rabbit-Proof Fence

2002

Adventure / Biography

2
IMDb Rating 7.5

Synopsis


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94 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Howard Schumann

&quot;And miles to go before I sleep/ And miles to go before I sleep&quot; -- RobertFrost<br><br>Set in Western Australia in 1931, Rabbit-Proof Fence, a new film byAustralian director Philip Noyce (The Quiet American, Clear and PresentDanger), is a scathing attack on the Australian government's &quot;eugenics&quot;policy toward Aboriginal half-castes. Continuing policies begun by theBritish, the white government in Australia for six decades forcibly removedall half-caste Aborigines from their families &quot;for their own good&quot; and sentthem to government camps where they were raised as servants, converted toChristianity, and eventually assimilated into white society.<br><br>Based on the 1996 book, &quot;Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence&quot; by Doris PilkingtonGarimara (Molly Kelly's daughter), the film tells the story of threeAboriginal girls, 14-year old Molly Kelley, her 8-year old sister Daisy, andtheir 10-year old cousin Gracie. It shows their escape from confinement in agovernment camp for half-castes and their return home across the vast andlonely Australian Outback. It is a simple story of indomitable courage, toldwith honest emotion. Abducted by police in 1931 from their families atJigalong, an Aboriginal settlement on the edge of the Little Sandy Desert innorthwest Australia, the three girls are sent to the Moore River NativeSettlement near Perth. Here the children must endure wretched conditions.Herded into mass dormitories, they are not allowed to speak their nativelanguage, are subject to strict discipline, and, if they break the rules,are put into solitary confinement for 14 days. <br><br>Followed by the Aborigine tracker, Moodoo (a great performance from DavidGulpilil), the girls make their escape. Using a &quot;rabbit-proof fence&quot; as anavigation tool, they walk 1500 miles across the parched Outback to returnto Jigalong. The rabbit-proof fence was a strip of barbed-wire netting thatcut across half of the continent and was designed to protect farmer's cropsby keeping the rabbits away. The girls walked for months on end oftenwithout food or drink, not always sure of the direction they are going,using all their ingenuity and intelligence along the way just to survive.The stunning Australian landscape is magnificently photographed byChristopher Doyle, and a haunting score by Peter Gabriel translates naturalsounds of birds, animals, wind and rain into music that adds a mysticalfeeling to the journey. <br><br>The performances by amateur actors Evelyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, and LauraMonaghan (who had never seen a film before let alone acted in one) areauthentic and heartbreakingly affecting. Though the white officials andpolice are characterized as smug and unfeeling, they are more likebureaucrats carrying out official policies than true villains. KennethBranagh gives a strong but restrained performance as Mr. Neville, theminister in charge of half-castes. Rabbit-Proof Fence is an honest film thatavoids sentimentality and lets the courage and natural wisdom of the girlsshine through. This is one of the best films I've seen this year and hasstruck a responsive chord in Australia and all over the world. Hopefully,it will become a vehicle for reconciliation, so that the shame of the&quot;Stolen Generation&quot; can at last be held to account.<br><br>

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Reviewed by mifunesamurai 9/10

This powerful film follows the journey of three young aboriginal girls whoare taken from their family and forced to assimilate into an empty cultureby the white settlers of Australia. This is known as the &quot;STOLENGENERATION&quot;, a dark period in Australian history which the current primeminister of Australia refuses to say sorry for the past atrocities. Butthisis not to say that this film preaches or manipulates emotions forpoliticalgain. No! It just tells the story with powerful images that allows theviewer to enter the torment of the stolen generation. Dialogue is minimalasour heroes are taken from their family and driven to the other side ofAustralia. But their will and instinct to be with their strong culture hasthe girls escape the camp prison and follow the rabbit-proof fence backhome. The rabbit proof fence was built down the centre of Australia tocontain the plague of rabbits from entering farm land. It was thiswhite-manbuilt fence that lead the girls back home.<br><br>As for all journeys, they are filled with internal conflict andconfrontations with strangers. These confrontations with certain peopleshowthe diverse group of settlers in Australia. Not all were ignorant but mostwere repressed and abided to the harsh cultured laws. For instance, thegirls arrive at a farmstead and are given clothing and food by a whitewoman. The motherly instinct of this woman understood that the girls hadtobe with their mothers. But at the same token the farm woman could notjeopardise her own family by looking after the girls or else it would havebrought trouble. It was wonderful scenes like these that was played outvisually without having to dumb it down with words. As human beings weunderstand these actions and need no explaining.<br><br>The most interesting relationship was the one between the aboriginaltrackerin search of the girls. He could sense the persistence of these girls togethome by making it difficult for him to track them down. This he respectedand slightly dropped his guard. Once again, a string of images tell ofthisdistant relationship between tracker and girls.<br><br>The images also became so strong during the scene when the girls weretakenfrom their mothers in a horrific manner. I doubt there will be a dry eyeduring that scene. This hooks you in as you then become the spirit oftheirjourney back home.<br><br>Only by the performances of the girls do these scenes work because theyareso natural and heartfelt. Children who overplay their role just becomecutebut those who underplay and rely on emotions of the situation deliver apowerhouse performance that a trained actor may sometimes find difficulttoachieve. At first the name of a high calibre actor - such as KennethBranagh- in an Australian film warns you where the limelight will shine. ButKenneth just took a step back and become another important confrontationalfigure in the journey.<br><br>A bonus is the music by Peter Gabriel. It is a mixture of his famoustrademark of world music infused with that of the Aboriginal. It soars andplays with the emotions, maybe a little too much but when you are dealingwith a thousand year old culture that has music as its central universe,then you may be able to understand that the overpowerful music is just anextension of that.<br><br>Congratulations to all who were brave enough to bring a project of thisstrength to the screen. And for those who may wonder how I saw the filmprior to its release, lets just say I was lucky enough to be at the rightplace at the right time. And No! I'm not tied to the project in any waybecause I don't sell out that easily.

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Reviewed by George Parker 8/10

Few films have garnered so much applause (from critics and public alike)with so little. The plot of &quot;Rabbit Proof Fence&quot; can be found elsewhere onthis website. Suffice it to say it's about three girls walking and walkingand walking and walking and....across some of the most visually austerecountry on the planet; the Aussie outback. There's little story behind thefilm, zilch for Hollywood tinsel, and a minimal cast of relative unknowns(except for Branagh's small role). It would be easy to make the case thatthis film is one long boring flick. However, it would also be easy to makethe case it is a beautifully filmed story of courage, determination, and thetriumph of the human spirit. I would argue the latter.(B+)

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