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Rabbit-Proof Fence

Starring Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury and Kenneth Branagh; David Gulpilil, Jason Clarke
Screenplay by Christine Olsen
Based on the book by Doris Pilkington and Nugi Garimara
Directed by Phillip Noyce

IN SHORT: If it wasn't "true" you wouldn't believe it. [Rated PG for emotional thematic material. 94 minutes]

In English, with subtitles -- the main characters are Aborigine and speak both native and euro tongues.

It doesn't matter if you read about man's inhumanity to man in history class or in a newspaper or see it recreated on a movie screen, if the story is well told you will walk out of the theater thinking "How could that happen?" Blood does not flow and bodies are not stacked up in piles in Phillip Noyce's Rabbit-Proof Fence. The evil is far colder than a simple "kill kill kill".

Justified by the simple motto "Duty. Service. Responsibility." A.O. Neville (Kenneth Branagh) carries out his duties as Australia's Chief Protector of Aborigines. The position gives him legal authority over all of that island nation's native people and, as their Great White Father, Neville knows it is his responsibility to keep their bloodlines pure.

The Rabbit Proof Fence of the title divides Australia North to South, keeping pasture and farm lands on one side and crop killing bunnies on the other. An immediate result of the building of the fence is an explosion of births of mixed breed children from "white" workers and native mothers. The fathers move on, leaving the children behind. As Chief Protector, Neville determines that these children would be better off if they were removed from Aborigine lands and clothed and educated in European ways. Thus civilized, the grown children could take their place in society with good jobs as nursemaids and servants and so forth. Two more generations of cross-breeding, Neville demonstrates photographically, would wipe out the Aborigine bloodline entirely.

So Neville, called "Mr. Devil" by the Aborigines, makes regular trips up north to inspect the new stock, separating the pure Aboriginal caste from the half-breed. The local constabulary to keep track of the half-caste children. When they are of a fit age, they are taken from their mothers and trucked to relocation/ re-education camps over a thousand miles from their old homes. The cops make a tidy sum from capture and transport fees and everyone goes home happy.

Except, of course, the natives who send their kidlets running at the first sign of (in this case) Constable Riggs' (Jason Clarke) police car. Rabbit Proof Fence is the story of three youngsters from Jigalong in Western Australia. Molly (Everlyn Sampi), age 14, her sister Daisy (Tianna Sansbury), age 8 and their cousin Gracie (Laura Monaghan), age 10. The three are raised by Molly and Daisy's mum, Maude (Ningali Lawford) and grandmother Frinda (Myarn Lawford) who are snatched up by Riggs and relocated to the Moore River Native Settlement, 1200 miles away.

All the children at Moore River are forbidden to speak their native language or eat native foods. A new religion is forced on them and they are crammed into barracks housing, two or three to a bed. Those that try to run away are quickly hunted down by an Aborigine tracker named Moodoo (David Gulpilil). Moodoo is no traitor -- his family is held to keep him in line -- but he does his job and he does it well. No one gets out of Moore River.

Except for Molly and Daisy and Gracie who, with no food and only the clothes on their back, walk all the way home. The kids scrounge and scavenge and, sometimes, get help and protection from strangers along the way, even as Neville organizes an entire country to hunt them down.

Noyce tells the story matter-of-factly, which could be a deadly sit had not the story been so gripping. At its core, Rabbit Proof Fence is not only the story of an incredible march, it is also the story of the people along the way. Whether citizen or native, government worker or farmer, they give aid to the three (in)famous girls, whose story is front page news all across the country.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Rabbit-Proof Fence, he would have paid . . .


The average rating for films that will work well on the arthouse circuit. That the story is told in such a dry manner works against our "system" which recommends that you wait for the vid.

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