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Fascinating & illuminating

  • May 28, 2003
  • by
RABBIT PROOF FENCE illustrates a piece of Australian history that I, as an American, knew nothing about. From 1931 to 1970, the aborigines were under the "guardianship" of a British bureaucrat, with the particular idea of separating "half-caste" aborigines from their full-blooded parents and putting them in a home so they could learn how to be servants and low-wage employees.

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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More Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002 movie... reviews
review by . July 07, 2005
We've been trying to see this film for a while now, after having missed it in the theater. I was interested because it had a score by Peter Gabriel, who has great taste for movies with which to lend his efforts (e.g., Birdy, The Last Tempation of Christ). It also had Kenneth Branagh in it, whom I don't follow as much as I used to given his recent track record, but when he's good, he's very good. And in this movie, playing the part of Mr. Neville, the "Aborigine Protector" of Australia for 25 years, …
review by . September 15, 2004
Rabbit Proof Fence is an experience that will stay with me for a long time.     During the Early 1900's the Australian government formed an organization that could declare parental rights over "Caste" aboriginal children. Their goal, a three generational breed-out of these lighter skinned children. In short, if they marry caucasions, and their own children do so, their grandchildren would be white. This would obliterate their race, a chilling notion that we have seen many times …
review by . April 17, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
Director Phillip Noyce has succeeded in creating a cinematic version of the true book about the 'racial cleansing' of the Australian Aborigines that took part in the first half of the 20th Century. The Australian government subsidized campsites to where half caste Aboriginal girls would be sent to breed with white men and thus diminish the ethnic qualities of the 'backward natives'. In three genrations the half castes could produce dilution of the 'blackness' of their people by creating half castes …
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I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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Based on a true story,Rabbit-Proof Fencemoves with dignified grace from its joyful opening scenes to a conclusion that's moving beyond words. The title refers to a 1,500-mile fence separating outback desert from the farmlands of Western Australia. It is here, in 1931, that three aboriginal girls are separated from their mothers and transported to a distant training school, where they are prepared for assimilation into white society by a racist government policy. Gracie, Daisy, and Molly belong to Australia's "stolen generations," and this riveting film (based on the book by Molly's daughter, Doris Pilkington Garimara) follows their escape and tenacious journey homeward, while a stubborn policy enforcer (Kenneth Branagh) demands their recapture. Director Phillip Noyce chronicles their ordeal with gentle compassion, guiding his untrained, aboriginal child actors with a keen eye for meaningful expressions. Their performances evoke powerful emotions (subtly enhanced by Peter Gabriel's excellent score), illuminating a shameful chapter of Australian history while conveying our universal need for a true and proper home.--Jeff Shannon
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Director: Phillip Noyce
Genre: Drama
Release Date: November 29, 2002
MPAA Rating: PG
Runtime: 1hr 34min
Studio: Miramax Home Entertainment
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