Magazine article Anglican Journal

Rabbit Proof Fence

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Rabbit Proof Fence

Article excerpt


Directed by Phillip Noyce

Starring Kenneth Branagh, David Gulpilil, Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, and Laura Monagan

WHEREVER colonialism went the children suffered the most. In Canada some call it the "big scoop" and in Australia it's known as the "stolen generations." The Australian movie Rabbit Proof Fence does an admirable job of telling the story of three aboriginal girls who are forcibly taken away from their mothers and taken to a church-run camp where boys are trained to be farm hands and girls as domestics.

The three young actors who play Molly, Daisy and Gracie never acted before and were the result of an extensive search throughout the Western Australia outback by director Phillip Noyce, (Patriot Games, Dead Calm, Clear and Present Danger).

Racism is endemic throughout the story. The children are taken because they are mixed blood with white fathers and aboriginal mothers. Australians didn't want a third race, and these "half caste" children were considered salvageable: they could be bred to have the aboriginal blood disappear in a few generations. The children are checked to see if they are fair enough to go to another school and be integrated with white children.

Based on a true story, the children are taken to a camp 2,400 km from their home, only to later flee. While it is a camp of wooden buildings and not the brick monoliths we have in Canada, it is still a familiar, repressive boarding school. The children entertain the staff with songs from England and the older students bully the new and younger ones. The aboriginal staff is used to do the dirty work and the tracker Moogoo (played by David Gulpilil) follows the girls into the desert but never finds them. At one point he appears to locate them but he does not follow through. It is as if he is their guardian and wants to see them safely home.

The movie title's fence is also a character in the story. Originally put in place to control the spread of rabbits, it is now a metaphor for the separation of the aboriginal world and the colonial British overlords. But, here, it is also the way to freedom.

The children follow the fence, propelled with a simple message, "We want to go home."

Australian actor Kenneth Branagh, who plays Mr. Neville, the aboriginal affairs `guardian,' gives such a masterful performance that he almost makes you feel sympathetic to him. …

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