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:: Rabbit-proof Fence

It would be a good idea for as many Australians as possible to see this film. It’s a story about real people, particularly in the neglect shown towards a part of the Australian population in the first half of the 20th century. The story of three young Aboriginal girls who are stolen from their families and then show the fortitude to escape the institution, is from Doris Pilkington Garimara’s book, and beautifully made into film by director Phillip Noyce.

In carrying out this moving film, the exceptional acting talent of Kenneth Branagh and musical talent of Peter Gabriel are brought in as further inspiration. But it is three young child actors who take your breath away. From the early stages of the film, one is immediately engrossed and affected by their performances.

It is 1931 and, as part of the Government policy, Aboriginal children were taken away from families and placed into institutions and are forced to assimilate into the white culture. Molly (Everlyn Sampi), Daisy (Tianna Sansbury), and Gracie (Laura Monaghan) were to be trained as domestic servants as part of this policy in the Western Australian outback. But the girls had a will and instinct to remain strong and to escape the “camp prison” and follow a rabbit-proof fence to try and return to their home. The rabbit-proof fence was built across the country to stop the spread, to the west, of rabbits into farmland.

Kenneth Branagh plays Mr Neville, the chief protector of Aborigines at the institution, and is an inspired choice for the role. He is the typical diligent public official. But one will observe that in order for him and his officers to carry out their task, they enlist indigenous people to enforce the policy. Such is the role of David Gulpilil as the Aboriginal tracker. He is placed on the trail of the three courageous girls.

In watching this film, one feels close to, and overwhelmed by, the courage and desire of the girls in their battle against the odds and the confrontations with strangers along their journey. A string of images tell of the relationships they endure, and the charm they possess. It’s these images, from the moment Molly, Daisy, and Gracie were taken from their mother, which hit home with the audience. The child actors are warm and natural, and provide exhilarating performances. We, the audience, could understand and feel their every move.

The beauty of the Australian landscape comes to the fore also, combined with the costumes and dialogue. And the subtle, emotional music by Peter Gabriel is a revelation. His world music ingredients are combined with Aboriginal music to provide a powerful intensity to the situation.

Great credit to Phillip Noyce for his vision in bringing this sad chapter of Australian history to the screen, It serves as a great educational piece. The film certainly moved the people at the pre-release screening that I attended, including Australian athlete Cathy Freeman. She and fellow Aborigines in the audience were visibly moved by what they had seen. I urge people to see this film.

Screening at Cinema Nova, Brighton Bay Cinema, George Cinemas, and Balwyn Cinema