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, he shines. There's nothing more unctuous than a man who thinks he is doing the right and noble thing, which we can view in hindsight as a truly horrible policy.
The story is set in 1931 during the Australian relocation of half-caste children to an orphanage that tried to instill white culture and identity on them. The three girls that the story follows are taken from their home and transported to the Moore House 1200 miles away, then run away to make their way back home by walking, mostly using the rabbit-proof fence as a guide. The director doesn't attempt to explain much beyond the initial subtitles that set the time and scene; in fact, in some scenes, his "show" has to be interpreted, albeit it is usually obvious enough (such as the white man visiting the half-caste cleaning woman on his farm in the middle of the night). Branagh's Neville is a central focus, ostensibly the villain of the movie, but he comes across as simply a bureaucrat with no empathy for the aborigines that he is supposed to be the protector of. The scene in which he explains his goal of breeding the color out of the half-castes makes clear that his protectorship was more oriented to the whites than the aborigines.
One finishes the movie simply shaking your head in disbelief. It's hard to conceive walking 1200 miles (or more, given the wrong turns and need to avoid capture) across the Australian outback without dying of hunger or thirst or simply getting lost. And it's hard to believe in a people that would engage in such practice of separating mother from child, as recently as 1970. As Americans we can't be too critical of the Australians, however, because our actions with our own indigenous people were hardly noble or just and just occured a few decades before the Austrialian debacle.
I enjoyed Rabbit-Proof Fence, although I'm not sure I'd recommend it to just anyone. It's pleasantly short, which is good, because there wasn't any need for it to be longer given the story, but also the brevity helps the film make its point without belaboring it.
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 … more
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, … more
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 … more
Glen is a forty-something communications professional living near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He grew up in Texas and has also lived inLos Angeles, Colorado, Washington State, and Washington, DC. Glen also … 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