Rabbit-Proof Fence

Rabbit-Proof Fence (Phillip Noyce, 2001) wr. Christine Olsen, based on book by Doris Pilkington Garimara, dp Christopher Doyle; Everlyn Sampi, Kenneth Branagh, David Gulpilil, Tianna Sainsbury, Ningali Lawford, Laura Monaghan, Deborah Mailman, Jason Clarke, Myarn Lawford, Roy Billing, Anthony Hayes (Reg), Garry McDonald, David Ngoombujarra (kangaroo hunter); Molly Kelly and Daisy Kadibil appear briefly at the end; based on true story about Aboriginal children escaping custody in the 1930s; shot in SA (partly in WA: the scenery without people), but set in WA; Best Film, Best Sound, Best Original Score AFI Awards 7 November 2002: Peter Gabriel; 94 min.

This is the Stolen Generations film we had to have: it's an emotional experience.
Rabbit-Proof Fence is a weaving made of strands of several different kinds.  There are the imported threads: the Fence, the maps, and the strange notion that skin colour is significant; and the traditional strands: the Dreaming, with its spiritual trails and spirit guides, the songs, and the secular trails left behind by passing humans.  The film weaves all this together in a rich texture; but if it is possible to make a weaving, it is also possible to take it apart, or at least track the trails of meaning through its warp and weft.

After 15 years of making superior Hollywood fare, Phillip Noyce has returned to Australia with this bold and timely film about the stolen generations. It's an amazing, true story – and, when we see the real Molly and Daisy, now elderly women, at the end of the film, it's a truly magical moment. The children are wonderful, and Christopher Doyle's deliberately grainy cinematography vividly evokes the vastness of this formidable continent. Kenneth Branagh doesn't make Neville a monster; this pasty faced, stitched-up bureaucrat genuinely believes he's doing the best thing for the children, and Branagh's portrayal of a smug racist is all the more chilling for that. David Gulpilil is wonderful as the tracker who comes to admire the children he's pursuing. David Stratton, SBS.


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