Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) Poster

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A Scathing Attack on Racism
howard.schumann2 December 2002
"And miles to go before I sleep/ And miles to go before I sleep" -- Robert Frost

Set in Western Australia in 1931, Rabbit-Proof Fence, a new film by Australian director Philip Noyce (The Quiet American, Clear and Present Danger), is a scathing attack on the Australian government's "eugenics" policy toward Aboriginal half-castes. Continuing policies begun by the British, the white government in Australia for six decades forcibly removed all half-caste Aborigines from their families "for their own good" and sent them to government camps where they were raised as servants, converted to Christianity, and eventually assimilated into white society.

Based on the 1996 book, "Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence" by Doris Pilkington Garimara (Molly Kelly's daughter), the film tells the story of three Aboriginal girls, 14-year old Molly Kelley, her 8-year old sister Daisy, and their 10-year old cousin Gracie. It shows their escape from confinement in a government camp for half-castes and their return home across the vast and lonely Australian Outback. It is a simple story of indomitable courage, told with honest emotion. Abducted by police in 1931 from their families at Jigalong, an Aboriginal settlement on the edge of the Little Sandy Desert in northwest Australia, the three girls are sent to the Moore River Native Settlement near Perth. Here the children must endure wretched conditions. Herded into mass dormitories, they are not allowed to speak their native language, are subject to strict discipline, and, if they break the rules, are put into solitary confinement for 14 days.

Followed by the Aborigine tracker, Moodoo (a great performance from David Gulpilil), the girls make their escape. Using a "rabbit-proof fence" as a navigation tool, they walk 1500 miles across the parched Outback to return to Jigalong. The rabbit-proof fence was a strip of barbed-wire netting that cut across half of the continent and was designed to protect farmer's crops by keeping the rabbits away. The girls walked for months on end often without 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 by Christopher Doyle, and a haunting score by Peter Gabriel translates natural sounds of birds, animals, wind and rain into music that adds a mystical feeling to the journey.

The performances by amateur actors Evelyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, and Laura Monaghan (who had never seen a film before let alone acted in one) are authentic and heartbreakingly affecting. Though the white officials and police are characterized as smug and unfeeling, they are more like bureaucrats carrying out official policies than true villains. Kenneth Branagh gives a strong but restrained performance as Mr. Neville, the minister in charge of half-castes. Rabbit-Proof Fence is an honest film that avoids sentimentality and lets the courage and natural wisdom of the girls shine through. This is one of the best films I've seen this year and has struck a responsive chord in Australia and all over the world. Hopefully, it will become a vehicle for reconciliation, so that the shame of the "Stolen Generation" can at last be held to account.
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9/10
What a pleasure it was to see Philip Noyce use his visual storytelling skills on a humane story.
DukeEman22 December 2001
This powerful film follows the journey of three young aboriginal girls who are taken from their family and forced to assimilate into an empty culture by the white settlers of Australia. This is known as the "STOLEN GENERATION", a dark period in Australian history which the current prime minister of Australia refuses to say sorry for the past atrocities. But this is not to say that this film preaches or manipulates emotions for political gain. No! It just tells the story with powerful images that allows the viewer to enter the torment of the stolen generation. Dialogue is minimal as our heroes are taken from their family and driven to the other side of Australia. But their will and instinct to be with their strong culture has the girls escape the camp prison and follow the rabbit-proof fence back home. The rabbit proof fence was built down the centre of Australia to contain the plague of rabbits from entering farm land. It was this white-man built fence that lead the girls back home.

As for all journeys, they are filled with internal conflict and confrontations with strangers. These confrontations with certain people show the diverse group of settlers in Australia. Not all were ignorant but most were repressed and abided to the harsh cultured laws. For instance, the girls arrive at a farmstead and are given clothing and food by a white woman. The motherly instinct of this woman understood that the girls had to be with their mothers. But at the same token the farm woman could not jeopardise her own family by looking after the girls or else it would have brought trouble. It was wonderful scenes like these that was played out visually without having to dumb it down with words. As human beings we understand these actions and need no explaining.

The most interesting relationship was the one between the aboriginal tracker in search of the girls. He could sense the persistence of these girls to get home by making it difficult for him to track them down. This he respected and slightly dropped his guard. Once again, a string of images tell of this distant relationship between tracker and girls.

The images also became so strong during the scene when the girls were taken from their mothers in a horrific manner. I doubt there will be a dry eye during that scene. This hooks you in as you then become the spirit of their journey back home.

Only by the performances of the girls do these scenes work because they are so natural and heartfelt. Children who overplay their role just become cute but those who underplay and rely on emotions of the situation deliver a powerhouse performance that a trained actor may sometimes find difficult to achieve. At first the name of a high calibre actor - such as Kenneth Branagh - in an Australian film warns you where the limelight will shine. But Kenneth just took a step back and become another important confrontational figure in the journey.

A bonus is the music by Peter Gabriel. It is a mixture of his famous trademark of world music infused with that of the Aboriginal. It soars and plays with the emotions, maybe a little too much but when you are dealing with 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 an extension of that.

Congratulations to all who were brave enough to bring a project of this strength to the screen. And for those who may wonder how I saw the film prior to its release, lets just say I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time. And No! I'm not tied to the project in any way because I don't sell out that easily.
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7/10
True and important film!
rosscinema25 February 2003
This is a very powerful film from the wonderful Phillip Noyce (The Quiet American) and its based on the shameful history in Australia where aborigine children were taken by force from their families and tribes to camps and taught to be servants. In the film 3 sisters escape and venture to walk 1,500 miles back to their tribe. The title refers to a fenceline that stretches for thousands of miles and the girls follow it. The wonderful aborigine actor David Gulpilil (Walkabout) plays a scout that is tracking the girls and Kenneth Branaugh plays an officer that is in charge of the whole operation. I guess the main flaw in the film would be the middle where most of the walking takes place and the film really slows down but its not a major complaint. The 1,500 mile trek is expertly paced and the film is by no means dull. Rather, its fascinating! The real footage that we see at the end of the film is so powerful that the whole essence of what you have just watched becomes even more devastating. This is more than just an important film, its a documentation of an ugly and shameful part of Australian history. A must see!
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7/10
Statement movie about a bad chapter in Australian history
Chris_Docker3 November 2002
Official policy between 1910 and 1970 in Australia allowed half-caste Aborigine children to be forcibly removed from their families and incarcerated ‘for their own' good in training schools where their were educated to become fitting servants for white families. This institutionalised eugenics, still recent enough to be remembered by its victims, is still a controversial issue in Australia where the PM John Howard refuses to give an official apology. The film has been doing very well in Australia. The story follows three such girls who are forcibly re-located but escape, and follow the ‘rabbit-proof fence' on a 1500 mile journey back home. The title itself seems to echo not only the yellow brick road of the Wizard of Oz (another journey to reclaim one's wholeness) but the fence that was erected to contain animals – which is just how the Aborigine children are treated, albeit with the best intentions. The story was adapted from a book by the daughter of the youngest surviving half-cast Aborigine portrayed in the film – the actual child actors had mostly never seen a motion picture before let alone acted in one.
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8/10
So much with so little.
=G=30 April 2003
Few films have garnered so much applause (from critics and public alike) with so little. The plot of "Rabbit Proof Fence" can be found elsewhere on this website. Suffice it to say it's about three girls walking and walking and walking and walking and....across some of the most visually austere country on the planet; the Aussie outback. There's little story behind the film, 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 that this film is one long boring flick. However, it would also be easy to make the case it is a beautifully filmed story of courage, determination, and the triumph of the human spirit. I would argue the latter. (B+)
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7/10
Top marks to the director
raymond-1525 September 2003
This film has quite a few remarkable features. First of all is its title which is rather unusual and immediately grabs one's interest. Next there is the fence itself which runs for thousands of miles to protect what few green plants there are in these desert regions from the voracious appetites of millions of wild rabbits. This fence plays an important role in this true story. Then there is the diector who not only scoured the continent to find three suitable aboriginal girls to play theleads but moulded these inexperienced beginners into the believable characters of Molly, Daisy and Gracie. The director Phillip Noyce has achieved remarkable success in creating three good little performers and should be given full credit for his difficult task.

For those who do not know the desert regions of Australia, it must be said that the "outback" country is harsh and cruel and can only be crossed by those with experience...those with a knowledge of the land. I think the camera makes it clear that the hostile environment is very much like a fence in itself...almost impossible to cross. All the more remarkable therefore that these girls accomplished what they set out to do. May be it was a reckless decision they made but thanks to the fence they found their way back to family and friends.

The film is largely a record of the long trek and the manner in which the children are able to survive. There are not many dramatic moments on their journey south. The children are mainly concerned with avoiding the blacktracker who is following them. The most unforgettable scene comes early in the film when the children are forcibly torn from their mothers. This is truly heart-wrenching stuff.

This thoughtful presentation is worth watching. It is part of Australian history.
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Powerful story, beautifully shot and pretty well acted – more than deserves 90 minutes of your time
bob the moo8 November 2002
1931 Australia. The state has passed a law that facilitates the collection of mixed race children to boarding camps where they are trained in their white side of their blood and to be home help as adults. The eventual aim is to prevent the growth of the aborigines as a race by watering down any mixed blood. A small group of children, Molly, Gracie and Daisy are taken from their mother and transferred across the country to one such camp. However Molly leads the trio in an escape from the camp and follow the rabbit proof fence that divides the country to return to her home.

I managed to fluke free preview tickets for this because the tickets I had come to collect were all gone! I must admit this film hadn't really appealed to me when I saw summaries and the poster, but I'm very glad that I did. The plot is based on fact and is a period of history that I admit I knew nothing about. I was surprised that this cruel and immoral practice carried on till as late as the seventies. The fact that the current Prime Minister of Australia refuses to apologise for it to this day shows that it is important that this story be told.

The film is told in a steady, unsentimental tone that allows the film to be powerful without the typically Hollywood use of sweeping music or other such lazy tools. Instead the circumstances of the story create the emotion. The story is a little weak at some points – once the children escape the film has a touch too many scenes of near-capture and escape to sustain the drama. Also the film (understandably) lends a lot of respect to the Aborigines – giving them a sense of mysticism that they maybe don't deserve. This is a slight problem when a key action involves a hawk that is supposedly summoned by their mothers (or something!). However these are minor complaints given the sweeping emotion of the film and the sheer power of the story.

The production and direction are excellent. Noyce has created a beautiful vision of the Australian Outback that really feeds the film. However the sound is also superb. Rhythmic footsteps ring out, crunching and banging of the landscape – it works best in a cinema I guess but it adds to the dramatic feel of the film, even if some sudden noises caused me to jump without any reason in the scene to do so.

The cast are mixed but are important where it matters. Sampi is amazing as Molly. She carries the film with her strength but also little facial expressions that reveal that she is a child, reveal her strength and tell so very much. Both Sansbury and Monaghan also do well but not as well as the lead. Branagh is also perfectly pitched. Neville could easily have been overplayed as a hammy villain of the piece but here he is played just right – he is a real man and we are left to decide for ourselves what to make of him. Some of the cast are average – some of the children in the camp can't act and the majority of the white police officers are maybe a shade too much caricatured as evil men who dislike the blacks.

Overall this film may struggle to draw the Friday night crowd just looking for a bit of escapism of a weekend, but it is still well worth a look. It is beautifully shot and uses the Australian landscape to great effect complimenting the enormity and emotion of the terrible, terrible true story. Not exactly cheerful or uplifting but a powerful story that deserves 90 minutes of your time.
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10/10
Excellent Realist Adventure Film
BrandtSponseller24 January 2005
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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Wonderful story about the transcendence of the human spirit
klook324 February 2003
I've seen several movies recently ("Adaptation," "The Hours," "Bowling for Columbine," "City of God," etc.), and "Rabbit-Proof Fence" is the best of the bunch. It's a simple story, but a very moving one. In particular, the performances by the young leads, the beautiful cinematography, and the wise, uncluttered script made this a strong cinematic experience for me. Kenneth Branagh was convincing as the racial purity zealot who manages the whole forced removal scheme. I also really enjoyed the subtle changes we see in the mysterious character of The Tracker (played with wonderfully restrained power by David Gulpilil), as his dogged pursuit of the girls eventually gives way to a dawning admiration. And to cap it all off, the closing real-life footage and text postscript leaves the audience feeling simultaneously devastated and triumphant. Wow.
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Superb and Devastating
Bobbygoode18 January 2003
Yes we've seen children-on-the-run films, but such glib commentary demeans this true life drama and its implications in real life. This magnificent and tragic story is yet another must-see in re:the little holocausts that have gone on, even in the most "civilized" nations - in this case Australia. What a touching story of three girls, marvelously portrayed by unknown young actresses, who escape from a horrific government policy, initiated by white supremacist Australia pre-Hitler and Nazi Germany. It is odd to say this is beautifully filmed in the Australian outback... and Kenneth Brannagh, echoing his recent portrayal as Heydrich in "Conspiracy", plays white evil incarnate - a prim bureaucrat diligently doing his government job's mandate - to cleanse Australia of "half breeds" in a most heinous (if not deadly) fashion. It is compelling from beginning to end, and the epilogue is most chilling and bittersweet. Superior and meaningful film making.
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10/10
Great movie
ruiz-914 April 2006
In Australia no less, I was shocked . In the first ten minutes of the movie I was in tears, as I watched I toiled along with the girls and fed them and cried with them felt fear for them and with them , smiled at some things too . Took me off guard and broke my heart, where as in America we took the Native Americans and did the almost the same thing . I'm left shaking my head and wondering when does it end or will it ever ,Great movie very thought provoking will tell all my Aussie friends to be sure and see it if they haven't already why does a government have to " protect them from them selves ", they've survived this long with out intervention .

I read more on the rabbit extinction methods made me sick to my stomach will never forget this movie . I belived it happened just as she tells it so much for the politics of the movie thanks Cassie USA
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8/10
The New World of the Civilised White Man
claudio_carvalho21 December 2008
In 1931, with the Aborigine Act in Australia, the Chief Protector of Aborigines in the State of Western Australia A.O. Neville (Kenneth Branagh) had the power to relocate half-caste children from their families to educational centers to give the culture of the white man. When the fourteen year-old aboriginal girl Molly Craig (Everlyn Sampi) is taken from her mother in Jigalong with her eight year-old sister Daisy Kadibill (Tianna Sansbury) and their ten year-old cousin Gracie Fields (Laura Monaghan) to the distant Moore River Native Center, they run away trying to return to the tribe in the desert. They are chased by the skilled tracker Moodoo (David Gulpilil) and the police under the command of Neville, and have to survive to their long journey back home.

"Rabbit-Proof Fence" discloses a shameful part of the Australia contemporary history when the white man tried to force a process of eugenism, following the true saga of three escapees from one "native center" to reach their families in the desert. The story has top-notch performances of the three girls in the lead roles, supported by magnificent direction, cast and screenplay and wonderful music score of Peter Gabriel. I have never read anything about this attempt of constructing a new world of the "civilised" white man that led the Aborigine people to the destruction of their identity, family life and culture during the so-called stolen generations. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Geração Roubada" ("Stolen Generation")
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7/10
True story about three mixed-race Aboriginal little girls who escape in Australia
ma-cortes26 December 2011
Riveting story based on actual events taken from a book by Doris Pilkingston , daughter of the starring girls . In 1931 ,after being plucked from their homes , three aboriginal girls getaway their forced incarceration at an institution designed to train such children as domestic staff to be introduced in white society . The protagonist Molly along with his smaller sister and cousin flee , all of them realize a long way return home . The Australian government oversaw the racist policies that enforced mestizos until the 70s . If you were kidnapped by the government, would you walk the 1500 miles back home? . Molly (Sampi) , Daisi(Sansbury) and Gracie (Monaghan) follow the line of rabbit-proof fence , the longest unbroken piece of ever made and built by the government to keep out the rabbits that had overrun the farmlands . Hunted by the authorities (Kenneth Branagh) and pursued by an astute tracker , the girls confront dangers in a heartbreaking adventure . Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families throughout Australia until 1970. Today many of these Aboriginal people continue to suffer from this destruction of identity , family , life and culture . We call them the Stole Generations .

Interesting tale about some girls snatched from their parents by the Australian government to be trained as domestic employees , they set off on a trek across the Outback and embarking on an incredible 1500 mile journey to return home . This is a fascinating adventure , a breathtaking struggle to survive . Neophyte main cast is appealingly natural , the three girls are sympathetic and enjoyable. Mailman is a likable white woman who helps the girls along the trail . Kenneth Branagh plays brilliantly a bigot who relentlessly pursues the little group .

Top-notch , colorful cinematography by Christopher Doyle who reflects splendidly Australian Outback . Rare musical score by the singer Peter Gabriel is composed by synthesizer and plenty of native sounds . The motion picture is stunningly directed by Phillip Noyce , an Australian director who emigrated Hollywood where achieved successes such as ¨Patriot games , Clear and present danger , The Saint¨. He is an expert on action and suspense as proved in ¨ Dead calm , Bone collector , Catch a fire , Salt¨. He returned his country and filmed this sensible drama of escape and survival well titled ¨Rabbit-proof fence or The Stolen Generation¨ . Rating : very good , better than average , well worth watching .
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Touching but not engaging enough
Gordon-1122 October 2010
This film is about three aboriginal girls who escapes from a religious camp in Australia, trying to walk back to their home village hundreds of miles away.

"Rabbit-Proof Fence" sounds very good on paper, as watching three young girls being forcibly removed from their family and their subsequent escape is a sure tear jerker. However, I find the story not so well told. It concentrates on the girls' escape in the scorching desert, and lacks excitement and suspense. There could have been so many subplots to make it exciting and engaging, such as facing wild animals in desert, running out of water, not being able to find food etc. There could also have been more humanistic side, portraying the girls' inner emotional turmoils. It would have been great if there were more people helping them even more passionately. As none of these happened in the film, we are only left with three girls wandering in the desert. The film ends up being dry and monotonous.
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Phil Noyce gives us film poetry, not propaganda
Philby-329 April 2002
MILD SPOILER AHEAD: This is the 200th film I have reviewed for IMDb and one of the most satisfying. Phil Noyce has produced here a piece of cinematic poetry when it could have easily been tendentious agit-prop. The story from the 1930s of three half-cast aboriginal girls walking 2000 km of Western Australia to escape the clutches of white assimilationists is seen through their frame of reference. We see the harsh beauty of the countryside as they do, not an alien landscape but as their back yard. They have all been brought up in the desert and together know how to survive, a point eventually realised by their pursuers, who then lie in wait at their destination.

The three young girls, Mollie, Grace and Daisy, are stunningly portrayed by Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sainsbury and Laura Monaghan. Molly, at 14 the oldest, has the largest part but the three of them function together as if they really were sisters. Their mother and grandmother , played by Ningali Lawson and Myana Lawson (daughter and mother in real life) are equally convincing, as is David Gulpilil as the relentless black tracker.

The most difficult role in the film is that of A O Neville (Mr Devil, as the aborigines called him), Chief Protector of Aborigines, a sincere and energetic advocate of the monstrous policy which resulted in a generation or more of half-cast children being removed from their families. It would be easy to pillory Neville as a monster, but Kenneth Branagh manages to give us a rounded picture of a man who was not inhumane, who tried to advance what he saw as the welfare of his charges despite lack of money and enormous logistical problems (not to mention an unco-operative police force). Had it not been for these obstacles the aboriginality of Australia would probably have been reduced to a few scattered reserves in the deserts run as freak shows for tourists.

Some critics of the armchair lefty variety have criticised the movie as not being political enough, and its true there's plenty of room for righteous (or leftist) indignation on the topic of the stolen generation, but I think a more overt political message would have diminished it. Imagine say, if John Pilger had made this film. Instead we have a near-classic. Never I have I seen the visual power of the Australian landscape better depicted, and seldom have I seen a better celebration of the human spirit. And this is a true story. The real Molly and Daisy take their bows at the end. Things didn't quite work out for them the way they might have, but they survived and stayed with their people.
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8/10
Wonderful and engrossing
ArizWldcat20 July 2004
It shocked me to see a user comment that this was a dull movie! I took my teen daughters to see it in the theater and we liked it so much we rented it again when it came out on DVD. What an interesting story and how amazing that it's based on a true story! Kenneth Brannaugh was amazing as the conflicted but evil official bent on capturing these poor girls. I cried my eyes out (SPOILER) when the girls were taken from their mothers...what a heartbreaking scene! The little girl actresses were also amazing and convincing! This is the rare movie that the family can enjoy together, and also discuss afterwards! I loved the fact that the real Molly and friends were shown at the end of the movie. This was a fascinating story that deserved to be told.
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9/10
Absolutely beautiful!
lalalive22 April 2003
We saw Rabbit Proof Fence this evening and I must say that for me this is absolutely one of the best movies this year so far. The moods in the film are fantastic, not in the least because of the music by Peter Gabriel. I was also very impressed with the acting of the girls. Once again we have been taught a lesson about the way we treat the native people of this world...
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8/10
very good
digger_c31 January 2002
The three lead girls are very good in the film (great work from the children's acting coach Rachael Maza!) and there is strong backup from others like Ningali Lawford. Some scenes are very emotional and will certainly move many members of the audience. It's disgusting to know the mixed-race Aboriginal children continued to be removed from their families until only about 30 years ago.

I suppose there is potential for this film to be quite important given the debate in recent over the Stolen Generation (with some, including the Prime Minister, questioning whether it could be called a "generation" and whether they were "stolen" or just "removed"). The film doesn't demonise the white people who take the kids away, not even the Chief Protector of Aborigines, A.O. Neville, played by Kenneth Branagh; he is shown as someone who honestly believes he is "protecting the Aboriginal from himself". It's interesting they decided to portray him this way.

The scenes where Mr Neville gives a slide show on how the "half-caste" can be "simply bred out" are very disturbing - I just thought, how can someone say these things? And the women just watch on attentively.

It seems miraculous that Molly and Daisy are still alive. The courage they showed to get home was really something extraordinary.

The film is very good, but there seemed to be something missing. Can't put my finger on it though, so it musn't have been that important.
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2/10
A Boring and Misleading Waste of Time
rashie9213 July 2008
After looking at these comments I must say that I am quite disappointed to see such a lack of diversity in the opinions of viewers. The majority of the comments describe the movie as brilliant, moving and a real 'tear jerker' however when I watched the movie the only tears I would have been likely to cry would have been tears of boredom. I really disliked this movie, partly because it was not created as well as it could have been . The way in which the story is presented is quite disappointing. It is a story that had the potential to be interesting, thought provoking and cause a real sense of empathy for the girls, but I feel that this was not done adequately. Despite this there were some bearable scenes, however these were far outnumbered by the boring, uninteresting feel of the entire movie. This made a story that could have been a compelling and interesting journey for viewers a boring and painful form of torture.

The other reason that I dislike this movie is its failure to address the other point of view, for want of a better word "the white persons" point of view. It makes out the white Australians of the time were racist and only trying to harm the aboriginals when this was not the case. While, in retrospect we can clearly see that what they did was wrong, the people at the time could not. They had good intentions and were only doing what they believed was right. What this movie, and unfortunately the majority of people who see it, fail to recognise is that in a lot of cases removing these aboriginal children from their homes was actually beneficial in many cases. Many of the children were living in absolute squalor and were rescued from that and offered the chance at a decent life. To those people who deem this to be wrong I ask them to take a look at Australia's current welfare and foster care system. Is this really any different?

As a senior school student in Australia, we are currently studying this movie and the 'Stolen Generations' in English. And I am afraid that this is not giving the right message to international viewers. It does not give them the full story, something that is definitely needed to understand the complicated and controversial issue of the Stolen Generations. It paints a racist, almost evil Australian society that was never in existence. It also unfairly prejudices them to believe that white Australians are evil and Aboriginies are innocent victims as well as subjecting them to a boring story and ninety minutes of torture.
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10/10
great on every level
lee_eisenberg6 February 2006
"Rabbit-Proof Fence" tells the story of how the Australian government used to steal Aboriginal children from their families and put them in reeducation camps to become servants for white people, and how three girls escaped and found their way home by following a fence erected to keep rabbits out of the farms.

One thing about the movie is how it portrays A.O. Neville (Kenneth Branagh), the man who orders the girls kidnapped. Certainly his actions are racist, but you don't grow to hate him. He doesn't act out of cruelty; he believes that he's doing the right thing. Also, there's Moodoo (David Gulpilil), an Aborigine working with the government to kidnap children. We recognize that it's awful that he's working with the oppressors, but somehow he also gives the feeling that he can't continue like this.

The scene where they kidnap the girls is beyond heart-wrenching. And since we were doing the same things to the Indians in the US, we have to own up to it too. A perfect movie.
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This is a beautifully photographed film never letting us forget the children's need to be reunited with their mothers as a primal drive.
jdesando29 December 2002
`Everybody's got to have a home' is an idea oft repeated in art. Earlier this year, a man ran for his life and family over the frozen tundra in `Fast Runner.' For my last review of 2002, I see we are still running for home and enduring the elements in `Rabbit Proof Fence,' where three aborigine children hike 1200 miles of Australian Outback to get home after being abducted by the British government in a purify-the-half-castes program.

This is a beautifully photographed film never letting us forget the children's need to be reunited with their mothers as a primal drive. The children use the Australian fence, which runs from north to south to keep rabbits and cattle on opposite sides, to guide them back home in 1931 with the expected run-ins with authority, personified by a believably narrow-minded administrator (Kenneth Branagh). His notion that scooping up mixed-race children to eradicate the culture is a benefit for the oppressed aborigines perfectly echoes the 19th-century British colonial zeal.

Director Philip Noyce, who also directed this year's `Quiet American,' captures the challenge of fighting the establishment and the Outback, but he doesn't seem to know how to make the journey interesting story telling-not much happens as the children cunningly avoid the law.

Peter Gabriel's indigenous score, however, well reflects the haunting allure of the Outback. `Walkabout's' David Gulpilil, playing a tracker torn between duty and racial loyalty, and Christopher Doyle's lush photography counterpoint the decadence of British imperialism.

Other films this year were concerned with the longing for family unity: `Harry Potter,' `Antwone Fisher,' `Road to Perdition,' `Gangs of New York,' even the light-hearted `Catch Me If You Can.' In our age that touts `family values,' these films remarkably show how difficult it is to retain those values.

Andre Maurois expressed the enduring need for family when he said, `Without a family, man, alone in the world, trembles with the cold.' Films of 2002 trembled.
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8/10
"And in spite of himself, the native must be helped".
classicsoncall20 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Fifteen hundred miles in nine weeks, that's about twenty four miles per day. The movie doesn't even come close to portraying the harshness of the terrain and weather conditions the girls would have encountered. The pain and hunger these girls must have endured goes beyond belief and is a testament to the courage one can summon to attain a goal held firmly in belief. I was not aware of the history of the Aborigines Control Act or of the suffering imposed on a race deemed inferior by the colonials. In some small measure, this film helps both educate and inspire, and is one of those pictures that's not easy to let go. I encourage anyone to view "Rabbit Proof Fence" to witness just how far the human spirit can go to attain freedom and dignity.
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9/10
Sobering, Saddening, Revealing
lawprof22 January 2003
Australia, a country with real cultural - and since 1941 - geo-strategic links with the United States gives us a steady supply of fascinating films. Several years ago "The Dish," which didn't do well commercially, told the true story of Australia's partnering with the U.S. in the exciting explosion of space exploration. The Australians of that film were white, largely educated and despite accents and indigenous slang very much like their Yank counterparts.

Now comes "Rabbit-Proof Fence," also a true tale but one which reflects a harrowing white insensitivity to the humanity of the continent's native inhabitants, lumped together as "aborigines" despite the obvious reality that they were, as were Native Americans, members of distinct tribal groupings.

Australian law mandated, not permitted but decreed, that children born of mixed race unions be forcibly removed from their parents and taken to special settlements where dual goals might be achieved. They would be trained as domestics for white people and also prepared to dilute through relationships with lighter skin people the genetic component of their color.

Government officials supervised this process which lasted, almost unbelievably, until 1970. In this film a slightly portly Kenneth Branagh plays a real civil servant, Mr. Neville, a man who wielded enormous power over Western Australia's natives. He was the legal custodian of their lives and such futures as his country's laws allowed.

Three young girls are forcibly abducted from their homes and taken to a school where white female nurses provide some semblance of humane care (given the situation). A black man with a daughter in the school, known as "The Tracker," employs his considerable bush skills to hunt down runaways not appreciative of the government's plan for their future.

The oldest girl leads the two others on a simply amazing trek through beautifully photographed but incredibly threatening and desolate outback territory ranging from semi-tropical to desert. The fence is their equivalent of the stars that guided escaping American slaves through the maze of the Underground Railroad These young actresses, with actions more than words, express love for home and parent and a fierce determination to march, crawl and stagger 1200 miles to get back.

The Australia of the prewar years isn't portrayed as morally monochromatic - both whites and blacks alternately help and betray the children. The police are not cruel but individuals unquestioning of legal authority. One frantically waves an official order to a hysterical mother as he scoops, with his free arm, the struggling girls as one might snatch up barnyard chickens.

The ending is powerful, moving and troubling. Mr. Neville is no monster: he's a true believer following then accepted-by-many theories of racial genetics. He believes his government's program can prevent the emergence of a third race of half-castes by forcing the lighter skin aborigines to marry up the color chart. His simple pleasure rather than any sense of irony attends the command performance of Stephen Foster's "Swanee River" by the school's kids. It's his favorite song so why shouldn't the children learn it?

Director Phillip Noyes co-wrote the script with Christine Olsen, both of them also serving as co-producers. They've done a fantastic job.

Americans shouldn't feel superior to the Australian policy wonks. We did exactly the same thing to Native Americans over a century ago, taking children away to mission schools to be "civilized."

More than a few people shed tears during the screening. Don't let that possibility keep you from seeing "Rabbit-Proof Fence." It's both a true story and a celebration of life and courage. And a warning about social engineering, bogus science and - worse - that peculiar blindness where some can not see ourselves in the bodies of those different solely by color and birth.

9/10.
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Heartbreaking triumph of the human spirit.
george.schmidt2 December 2002
RABBIT –PROOF FENCE (2002) **** Kenneth Branagh, Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, Laura Monaghan, David Gulpilil, Ningali Lawford, Myarn Lawford, Deborah Mailman, Jason Clarke, Natasha Wanganeen, Garry McDonald. Powerful true-life account of three Australian aboriginal girls who were abducted as part of the country's internment camp treatment of ‘half-caste' children (Aborigines of mixed race with white) who were raised to be lower class citizenry for nearly 100 years . Set in 1931 the three girls set about their quest to return home to their mother 1,500 miles away with only the titular life-line running across the continent as a guide. The three girls cast are all non-professionals but that doesn't discourage the emotional impact achieved by their heartbreaking performances (particularly Sampi, whose expressive brown eyes conveys volumes of words in simple glances) and Branagh as the perpetuator and self-professed protector of the natives elevates his blind passionate character from becoming an easy villain to loathe. Filmmaker Phillip Noyce does a remarkable job in his direction particularly allowing many scenes to commence without sound and let the stillness affectively depict the seemingly impossible feat at hand. Christine Olsen's taut and well-paced screenplay adaptation of Doris Pilkington's autobiography is a work of true artistry. One of the year's best films.
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servicable melodrama
cogs8 December 2003
"Rabbit-Proof Fence" is a serviceable melodrama about the plight of a trio of escapee Aboriginal girls travelling back to their settlement. The film looks great, the story is simple but strong and the performances by the three young girls, and Kenneth Branagh are all very good. The other performances, though, are below standard and they disrupt the emotional force of the film. And, at times, Noyce's unsubtle direction errs towards overstatement, and the writing is occasionally simplistic and one-sided. The issue of `Stolen Children' is a valid one in Australia, but it is an extremely complex one, an aspect that this film fails to convey.
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