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RABBIT PROOF FENCE

Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, Kenneth Branagh, Jason Clarke, David Gulpilil

Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Written by: Christine Olsen
Produced by: Phillip Noyce, Christine Olsen, John Winter

US: 29/11/02 UK: 08/11/02

Highly emotional drama set in 1931 Australia.
After being abducted from their homes by the government to be trained as domestic staff for a white family, three Aboriginal girls escape from their captors andgo walkabout on the long walk home across the Outback, following the rabbit-proof fence
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Director Noyce's return to Australia has given the local industry a big boost; this film scooped nominations in almost every category at the 2002 Australian Film Awards! And you can certainly see why: It's stunningly beautiful, both to look at and in the way it tells a simple, true story. It takes place in 1931 Western Australia, where the British government in their infinite wisdom has taken upon itself the role as "protector" of the indigenous peoples. This basically means removing half-caste children from Aboriginal homes and placing them in orphanages to indoctrinate them in the elevated ways of European religion, art and language. (While it's hard to imagine this ever happening at all, this system was in place until 1970!) This story centres on the 14-year-old Molly (Sampi) who, with her 8-year-old sister (Sansbury) and 10-year-old cousin (Monaghan), is removed from her mother and grandmother (Ningali and Myarn Lawford) and taken 1200 miles to a sort of boarding school cum concentration camp. But Molly can't stand it, and the three of them escape, following the rabbit-proof fence that spans the continent to find their way home nine weeks later, bravely outsmarting the Protector (Branagh) and his constable (Clarke), as well as an Aboriginal tracker (Gulpilil).

Noyce once again collaborates with his Quiet American cinematographer Christopher Doyle to make a film that looks absolutely stunning. It's as much a film about the country as about these three little girls and their astounding, harrowing journey. The textures and colours are so vivid that we feel like we're there with them, drawing strength from the land itself to escape the hunting interlopers. Meanwhile, Peter Gabriel's gorgeous score blends musical styles to give the local sounds a fresh relevance for us now. Terrific performances add to this sense of truthfulness; the little girls are absolutely amazing in their roles, while Branagh brings a level of gravitas and balance to his character--a man doing the wrong things for the right (misguided) reasons. The sheer arrogance of the colonialists is shocking to us, especially as they go on and on about trying to "help these poor people!" And seeing all of this through Molly's eyes is chilling, frightening and surprisingly hopeful.


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