Rabbit-Proof Fence


Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Written by:Christine Olsen
Starring: Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, Laura Monaghan, Kenneth Branagh
Released: February 21, 2002
Grade: A-

“The policeman came and took us, Gracie, Daisy and me, Molly.  They put us in that place.  They told us we had no mothers.  I knew they were wrong.  We run away.  Long way from there.  We knew we find that fence, we go home.”  (Molly Craig)

Rabbit-Proof Fence is a vehicle to further highlight the topical issue of the “stolen generation”.  Made in Australia, it can expect a world-wide release because of one person - the director Phillip Noyce.  As the director of such films as Patriot Games, Clear And Present Danger and The Saint, Noyce has standing.  He’d have the choice of any project in Hollywood but instead has chosen this small project.  It’s budget is less than 10% of his last film, The Bone Collector.

Set in Western Australia 1931, Mr A.O. Neville (Branagh) is in charge of policing the government’s policy on aboriginal children.  There has been an increase in the number of “half-castes” - those born of a white father and an Aboriginal mother.  To prevent interracial deconstruction, Neville identifies half-caste children and they are taken to the Moore River Native Settlement to be re-educated to the ways of the “white man”.

Molly (Sampi), Daisy (Sansbury) and Gracie (Monaghan) are taken from their mother in Jigalong and forced to live at the Settlement.  Conditions are terrible, they are treated like slaves and all three want to return to their mother.  They escape and begin a 1,200 mile trek to find their home.  They are being chased by the Settlement tracker, the press and the government but somehow these three girls defy the odds.  Sticking close to the rabbit-proof fence that leads them north, the elements soon become their biggest obstacle.

Rabbit-Proof Fence is an intelligently created movie.  It brings to light the shocking treatment of Aboriginal children in the early 20th century but does so by not preaching documentary style.  The story is the key and this simple tale of three girls looking for their mother will tug the heartstrings in the right way.

Noyce’s direction is sensational and the cinematography is amazing.  He has captured the barrenness and desolation of outback Australia with precision - it’s a side of Australia we don’t often see.  There was obvious difficulty in casting the three leading roles.  Over 1,000 girls were auditioned and Everlyn Sampi (11), Laura Monaghan (9) and Tianna Sansbury (7) were those selected.  None had prior acting experience and it does show.  Given their age though, they can’t be criticised.

An important film in Australia’s own cinematic landscape, Rabbit-Proof Fence needs to be seen for not only its entertainment but for its education.