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Customer Review

51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb rendition of amazing story, 10 Feb 2004
This review is from: Rabbit-Proof Fence [DVD] [2002] (DVD)
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]
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4.6 out of 5 stars (72 customer reviews)
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