We follow three girls (aged 8-14) who are separated from their homes and placed in this camp some 1200 miles away. Molly, the oldest girl, who is quite clever and spirited, leads the three on a daring escape and journey back to their home. Their journey is amazing, because the endure lengthy hardships in the desert, little food, and the treachery of some adults they meet who try to turn these famous refugees over to authorities.
They do meet help along the way too, but always they have to be wary of anyone they run into. The movie has flashes of humor, beautiful scenery and some heart-wrenching scenes.
Kenneth Branagh plays Neville, the bureaucrat, and is the only "star" in the movie. His part is quite small...he handles it well, but it is NOT his movie. The movie belongs to these three inexperienced actresses, who were "discovered" by director Philip Noyce and put to work in these tricky parts. And they pull it off so well. They are all outstanding at conveying their sense of fear, of outrage, or courage and they have a certain stillness that shows how reserved they feel around these white strangers who have uprooted them.
The movie is not exactly fast-paced, but I found it fascinating all the way through. It quietly draws us in, because we are rooting for the lead characters.
The fact that this is a TRUE story (we meet some of the main characters towards the end) makes it all the more riveting. It's one of those rare films that completely educates you about an obscure but important part of history, but entirely through the power of great storytelling. We never feel we are "learning," yet at the end of the movie, you want to go find out more about this time in history.
The movie is rated PG, but might not be very interesting to kids under 11 or so. A recommended experience!
(By the way, the bonus feature on the DVD about the making of the film is outstanding. So often, these little features are nearly worthless, but we spend 40 minutes learning how the kids were discovered and trained. It is absolutely fascinating, and in my opinion, after watching the film, you should immediately watch the featurette!!!)
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