51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Philip Noyce has transformed an epic journey into an example of visual poetry. Three girls, kidnapped and destined for "assimilation" into white Australian society, escape their "protectors". In an astonishing journey, pursued by government police and an Aborigine tracker, they evade authority's clutches. After seven weeks and eighteen hundred kilometres journey, they reach home. Perhaps the longest foot journey in Australia.
Noyce beautifully captures the harsh environment traversed by the trio, even though the filming was far distant from the actual location. The girls must use every available cover and device to escape capture, and Noyce maintains the tension throughout the film. Using numerous close-ups to convey feeling, you're kept aware that flight from captivity isn't a social event. Encounters with either white or fellow Aborigines force reserve, suspicion and hesitation - talk is minimised, even among the three escapees. This is a highly visual film in a setting providing oppotunities for lush images.
It is the people, however, that give this film its true grandeur. Clearly, the fleeing girls aren't professionals before the camera. Everlyn Sampi's facial expressions seize the soul in nearly every scene. She's aware of the burden she's carrying, leading the escape, keeping them free, thwarting detection and pursuit, finding the track. David Gulpilil, the Aborigine tracker, also rivets the eye as he leads the quest to return the girls to the mission. How does he feel in pursuit of his own kind in the employ of the dominant, racist, white society? Kenneth Branagh might have absorbed the soul of A.O. Neville so graphically does he portray the "Protector of Aborigines". Called "The Devil" by Aborigines and seeming to personify all the worst aspects of a racist society, Neville was simply an extreme example of his society's mores. Branagh clearly understands this fully, playing the role with marvelous reserve.
This DVD is almost a novelty for other aspects. The discriminating viewer will soon discover that the "Special Features" aren't something to by-pass lightly. Instead of the usual long-winded interviews with directors, producers and actors, Noyce, with his usual skill offers something truly captivating. He takes you on a "hand-held camera" journey to solicit the acting team from remote Australian communities. We are introduced to the various children discovered, assessed and chosen for the roles. These are but children suddenly confronted with a new world. Their reactions are poignant and inspiring.
Finally, the viewer will discover yet another level of reward in watching the film again with the voice-over commentary enabled. Fresh surprises await the patient as Noyce discusses how the film came to him and his enthusiasm for it. He relates his dealings with all the cast. It is David Gulpilil who, with infinite subtlety, transforms the book's tracker into a wholly new and realistic character. Every praise that can be imparted to the three children suddenly becomes remote as you discover Gulpilil manifests the two centuries of Aborigine-white encounters. Buy this film in anticipation of many unexpected revelations. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Rabbit-Proof Fence is a remarkable story of the courage of three children in the face of brutal racism. As late as 1970, Australia allowed the forcible capture of mixed aboriginal-white children and trained them in concentration-camp-like centers to be domestic servants in white society. This film tells the true story of three such girls who escaped from the center in 1932, and walked 1500 miles back to their family. Their only marker, across the desolate desert and bush, was the world's longest fence, the "rabbit-proof fence," which eventually led them home.
This story of Australia's misguided attempt to help the aborigines "in spite of themselves" has an excellent script and direction. The children, all non-actors, are wonderfully convincing and sympathetic. Kenneth Branagh has a small role as the government official who tries to recapture the girls. David Gulpilil plays the aboriginal tracker who relentlessly follows the girls, and his villainous character was truly frightening. The sweeping photography of the arid bush shows just how tremendous the girls' accomplishment was. Rabbit-Proof Fence is a very sad but important story and I heartily recommend it.
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2006
I can't remember why I bought this dvd but was so glad I did, it remains as one of the most powerful memorable films I own along with Hotel Rwanda. The fact that its based on real life makes it that more amazing. The cinematography is brilliant and the story will have you feeling their hope and pain throughout right till the end.
If you want to be inspired, your eyes opened and your life that little bit enriched with history get this film. If you are a viewer that is moved by powerful actions and emotions, see this film and you will be glad you bought it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Truth can be painful, and that is certainly so here, where the truth in question is the appalling treatment of Aboriginal children by the Australian authorities who, as late as 1970, habitually removed half-caste children from their parents, cut them off from all contact with their families and tried to turn them into good, Christian, Australian citizens with no knowledge of their own language or culture. This beautiful, heart-rending film portrays this shameful, all-too-typical, aspect of British colonialism in action.
The film follows three children, Molly (14), Gracie (10) and Daisy (8), dragged from their mother's arms in 1931 and transported across half the country to what was effectively a concentration camp run by nuns and bureaucrats. There they are forced to speak only English, not 'that jibber-jabber,' as their own language is dismissed by one of the nuns. We then follow the three girls through their attempts to escape and return on foot to their mother, 1,500 miles away.
It is an almost incredible tale, yet it is based on actual events as described in the book, Rabbit-proof Fence, written by the daughter of one of the three children. It is, however, not a documentary and the film-makers aim was to produce an emotionally involving film rather than a 100% accurate depiction of history. The true story of the three girls is a framework around which is built a dramatic condemnation of the real maltreatment of thousands of similar children that took place over decades. The core story is, however, absolutely true, it is only peripheral details that are embellished or truncated for dramatic effect.
But whatever your feelings about its accuracy, this is a truly remarkable film. At its heart are the extraordinary performances of the children who portray Molly and her sisters. They are, quite simply, unbelievably good. I've no idea how director, Philip Noyce, managed to get such brilliant performances from his young stars, but he does and they carry the whole film. As a viewer, you can't help but love them, care for them, and desperately want them to succeed.
Not that theirs are the only superb performances. Kenneth Branagh is dispassionately, blindly, ignorantly charming as the government's 'Protector' of Aborigines, explaining in one particularly chilling scene how 'blackness' can be 'bred out of them.' David Gulpilil must also be singled out for his subtle, quietly riveting portrayal of the Aboriginal tracker sent to hunt down the three girls. He is every bit as good here as he was in Nic Roeg's classic, Walkabout [DVD] .
All in all, an extraordinary film, brilliantly acted, beautifully made and completely emotionally engaging. Both a heart-breaking exposure of a disgraceful episode in colonial history and an exquisite portrayal of the triumph of the human spirit over seemingly insurmountable odds. A wonderful, wonderful film.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 2010
An absolutely stunning movie-- moving beyond words . It kept me tied to my seat, and the performances of every single actor and actress were marvelous-- including the children, who were absolutely stellar. If ever I could say I am so glad I saw a film, this is the time.
My hat's off once again to Kenneth Branagh, my all-time favourite actor, for choosing to be part of this amazing story which needed to be told.
That such things were happening in Australia as late as 1970 is staggering.
I watched this film together with my university class and everyone was deeply moved and glad they had had the chance to see this film.
I will recommend it often and loudly in the future !!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 October 2007
Between 1905 and 1971 the Australian government had enacted a policy of forcibly removed all half-caste Aboriginal children to special training schools. The grown daughter of Molly wrote a book about her mother's experiences and this movie is an adaptation of that true story.
In 1931, Molly and her younger cousins, Gracie and Daisy, were three half-caste children from Western Australia who were taken from their parents under government edict and sent to an institution, were taught to forget their families, their culture, and re-invent themselves as members of "white" Australian society. The three girls begin an epic journey back to Western Australia, traveling 1,500 miles on foot with no food or water, and navigating by following the fence that has been build across the nation to stem an over-population of rabbits.
Though the movie shows that the government's officer in charge had essentially good intentions. That these actions brought about by this policy were misguided and ultimately very destructive to Australia's Aborigine people and to the nation's moral fabric. This story of hope and survival will give you faith in the undying strength of the human spirit. Well worth watching.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 27 February 2006
This film is awe-insiring, not to mention shocking. I had read a bit about how the Aborigines were treated in Australia in the 20th century, but this film really brought it home. The appalling fact that it is not in the "dim and distant past" but within a couple of generations makes it even more tragic.
The acting is superb - the three sisters are incredible, especially the oldest of them, and Kenneth Brannagh puts in a very good performance as the official convinced of his moral superiority.
You will need a hanky (or three) when watching this film, but it never becomes sentimental or trivialises its subject matter. The epilogue, when you read about what happened to the sisters later and get to see two of them as old women, is almost unbearable.
This film should be compulsory viewing in all Australian schools.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Set in Australia's bleak outback, this 2002 film takes place in 1931, when white bureaucrats forced their own morality on Aborigine half-castes living in the bush. Believing that these half-white children "deserved" the "advantages" of "civilization," and convinced that in three generations their blackness could be "bred out," the Australian government forcibly removed them from their families, brought them to settlements hundreds of miles from their homes, and trained them to be domestic servants. Forty years later the government finally abandoned the policy, leaving a "Stolen Generation" in its wake. Molly Craig has long been the symbol of the Aborigines' refusal to accept this genocidal policy, and this film, brilliantly directed by Philip Noyce, celebrates her unconquerable spirit in the face of sanctioned governmental cruelty.
Molly Craig (Everlyn Sampi), her cousin Gracie (Laura Monaghan), and her sister (Tianna Sansbury), aged thirteen to eight, are cruelly removed from their mothers in Jigalong (Western Territories) and taken a thousand miles to the Moore River Native Settlement, which is directed by the self-righteous Mr. Neville (convincingly played by Kenneth Branagh), who believes in the inherent correctness of the resettlement policy. Placed in overcrowded dormitories, prohibited from using their own language, and required to live according to another world's rules, Molly, her sister, and her cousin decide to escape by following the 1500-mile "rabbit-proof fence," which borders both the settlement and their distant home. They must avoid detection by a hired Aborigine tracker (played menacingly by David Gulpilil) and by government workers and white settlers. For nine grueling weeks, the girls live virtually on their own, surviving through their ancestral knowledge of the land.
Written by Molly Craig's daughter, Doris Pilkington Garimara, who, later, was also removed from her mother Molly and forced to live in a settlement, the film is a moving celebration of the human spirit, a tribute to Molly Craig, and a plea to acknowledge the rights of aboriginal peoples, wherever they may live. The harsh and unforgiving land is beautifully photographed, and the haunting music of aboriginal voices and instruments in the Golden Globe-nominated score by Peter Gabriel further the realism. The cast of young girls, all making their film debuts, never makes a misstep, conveying the trauma of their separation, their commitment to returning home, and, in Sampi's case, an anger which is only barely hidden. Branagh, though effective, really does not have to do much to be the villain here. In this beautifully realized depiction of a wrong-headed policy, director Noyce wisely chooses not to embellish the message with unnecessary, artificial melodrama--reality here is drama enough. Mary Whipple
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 17 January 2004
Some reviewers have tended to confuse the courageousness of the film (look, it's a nice film, but it isn't especially daring - it's a conventional "battle against-the-odds" survival rap) with the courageousness of the underlying story. Personally, I didn't find the political/historical context that interesting, but there was more than enough cinematic artistry in Rabbit-Proof Fence to make it a very worthwhile experience.
It's a very simple, linear tale. It's gorgeously photographed and the soundtrack (both Peter Gabriel's music and the 5.1 surround mix) is very involving. The narrative isn't really important - the story does little more than document, episodically, a long journey home across a desert. But this provides a terrific figurative platform; the fence represents not a barrier but a lifeline, a map, a way home and in one exquisite moment, a heartstring: a shot of the girls first grabbing the wire is artfully spliced next to a view of their mother, 800 miles away, holding the same wire, pining for her daughters.
Nice editing, that man.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Three Aboriginal girl’s lives are ripped apart by a now seemingly doomed piece of Australian government policy. If they are to return to their homeland, they must follow the only feature that exists in some of the harshest terrain on the planet.
‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ is a marvellous, moving film that had me transfixed throughout its 90 minutes. Evelyn Sampi (Molly), having never acted before, gives a magnificent performance as the older girl. You automatically empathise with the indigenous people’s plight and ‘will’ the girls on in their quest. And, thankfully Kenneth Branagh plays forth-fiddle in ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’.
The DVD includes the interesting ‘making of’ which I felt compelled to dive straight into once the films credits had rolled up. Both the film and the bonus material made me shed a tear.
Phillip Noyce’s (‘The Quiet American’) direction shows the terrain in all its bleak beauty and the way he motivates the young actresses (as seen in the bonus material) is masterful.