June 8, 2004

Rabbit-Proof Fence (Review)

In 1999 I visited the Australian Museum in Sydney, though my hand-written travelogue does not include an entry for that day. The museum made an impression and I was too eager to take in all the sites to sit down and record the experience.

One aspect of the Australian Museum that has stayed with me was the exhibit of aboriginal art expressing feelings regarding Australia’s “Stolen Generation.”

Between 1870 and 1970 there are reports of the forcible removal of Aboriginal children from their families to integrate them into white Australian society. Some claims have as many as 100,000 children separated from their parents and culture in this genocidal policy.

Rabbit-Proof Fence is the story of three such girls. Referred to as “half-caste” children for their mixed heritage, Molly, Daisy and Gracie are removed from their families in 1931 and sent to a camp where they are to be taught to speak only English and pray. They escape and attempt to navigate the 1,500 miles home by following an enormous fence that spans the country.

Kenneth Branagh portrays “Mr. Neville” as a concerned, but racist and misguided Australian who drives a policy of “saving the Aborigines from themselves.” He makes it his business to have these girls located and returned to their reeducation camp.

The perils of their journey are serious (form starvation to desert exposure) but one encounter with an Aboriginal half-caste servant woman conveys a possible fate if they are caught. She clings to them briefly for comfort and to escape the horror of her own life.

This film describes a remarkable journey, and carries a timely message about forcing others to adopt a better way of life… your way of life.

It’s a moving story, played well. The girls’ acting is understated and believably furtive, even when their accomplishments are unbelievable.

Posted by James at June 8, 2004 8:45 AM
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