Western Australia, 1931. Government policy includes taking half-caste children from their Aboriginal mothers and sending them a thousand miles away to what amounts to indentured servitude, "to save them from themselves." Molly, Daisy, and Grace (two sisters and a cousin who are 14, 10, and 8) arrive at their Gulag and promptly escape, under Molly's lead. For days they walk north, following a fence that keeps rabbits from settlements, eluding a native tracker and the regional constabulary. Their pursuers take orders from the government's "chief protector of Aborigines," A.O. Neville, blinded by Anglo-Christian certainty, evolutionary world view and conventional wisdom. Can the girls survive? Written by
The last scene in the movie, which shows the real-life Molly Craig walking with a walking stick, was shot first. According to Phillip Noyce, during an interview after a screening, Molly's age and health made it so that it would be best if that scene was shot first. See more »
When Moodoo is first seen riding north along the Rabbit-Proof Fence to meet a police constable he's on the west of the fence. Shortly before the actual meeting he's on the east side of the fence. See more »
Based on a true story and set in Australia in the 1930s, Rabbit-Proof Fence is about three "half-caste" aboriginal girls, Molly Craig (Everlyn Sampi), Daisy (Tianna Sansbury) and Gracie (Laura Monaghan), who are taken from their mother and shipped 1500 miles across the country to the Moore River Native Settlement where they are to become more integrated into white Australian culture. Molly, the eldest and most experienced of the three, initiates an attempt to return home, on foot.
There is some controversy over just how factual the film and its bases are (including the book by the real-life Molly Craig's daughter, Doris Pilkington), and there were some interesting parallels to the situation depicted in the film and behind the scenes facts about star Sampi and director Phillip Noyce. I won't get into that here, because it's irrelevant to the question of whether Rabbit-Proof Fence is a good film. It is. It's an excellent, inspirational film that should leave nary a dry eye whenever it's shown.
On the other hand, there is a politics present in the film that is not ignorable. The aborigines in the film are abused and pushed around by a culture that misguidedly wants to "protect them from themselves". A segment of historical white Australia is portrayed as the "bad guy". Noyce doesn't paint a picture completely without ethical nuance, however. The chief villain of the film, A.O. Neville (Kenneth Branagh), keeps talking about his good intentions, and such claims do not come across as insincere. This all sets the backdrop and motivation for the heart of the film, which is a story of just what conviction, persistence and a bit of resourcefulness can do.
Rabbit-Proof Fence is mostly a combination of an adventure and a suspense film. Set primarily in the breathtaking Australian wilderness, magnificent cinematography goes without saying. The suspense is realistic and comparatively subtle.
As for the cast, Sampi is simply enchanting, and Branagh is as good here as I've seen him in any other film of his, even though his role is a relatively minor one. The tracker, Moodoo (David Gulpilil), managed to be very effectively complex, all while uttering barely a word. The music, by Peter Gabriel, is also worth noting. It is very unobtrusive, but elegantly emphasizes mood throughout the film.
I also had extra personal interest in the film as an avid hiker who has done a number of long-distance hikes and who plans to do more in the future.
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