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Rabbit-Proof Fence

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Rabbit-Proof Fence

Starring: Everlyn Sampi, Kenneth Branagh
Director: Phillip Noyce
Rated: PG
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: November 2002
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Laura Monaghan, Tianna Sansbury, David Gulpilil, Deborah Mailman, Jason Clarke, Ningali Lawford, Myarn Lawford

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

"In spite of himself, the native must be helped," Mr. Neville (Kenneth Branagh) lectures a group of fellow Australian citizens in 1931. With the ironic title of Chief Protector, Mr. Neville is in complete charge of all of the half-castes in Western Australia. If any of these people, whose race is both white and Aboriginal, want permission to marry or to visit their full-blood relatives, they have to apply in writing, and he has to approve it. A professional do-gooder, he enforces racist policies but with the wide-spread delusion that the rules are to help the helpless Aborigines.

Phillip Noyce's RABBIT-PROOF FENCE relates an amazing, true story about three girls who choose to defy the government's program of removing half-castes from their homes and resettling them to permanent camps. The power of the movie comes not so much from this particular production as from the story itself, which is unforgettable and unforgivable. The United States and Australia in the early twentieth century were racist in very different ways. In the U.S., if someone were partially black, they were usually discriminated against as if they were all-black. Australia, on the other hand, wanted to fix the problem of mixed races by multi-generational breeding of half-castes with whites so that, by the third generation, the "Aborigine is bred out."

Molly (Everlyn Sampi), Daisy (Tianna Sansbury) and Gracie (Laura Monaghan) are three half-castes separated against their will from their mothers and taken north to a camp twelve-hundred miles away. Soon after their arrival, Molly, an ever-resourceful 14-year-old, decides she will take the two younger girls home by walking. This amazing journey takes them through increasingly barren land, where, towards the end, almost no food or water can be found. David Gulpilil (CROCODILE DUNDEE) plays a taciturn tracker named Moodoo who is sent to find the girls. Moodoo, a steely eyed Aborigine with leathery skin, conserves his words as if God had only given him thirty and, once those were used up, he would be forever mute. Although it takes nine weeks, Molly does eventually outfox the dedicated Moodoo. Her salvation is her idea to follow the "rabbit-proof fence" that goes from the top to the bottom of Australia in order to keep the rabbits out of the farmer's fields. With it, she could keep from being lost.

The beauty of the story is watching Molly and her companions make this harrowing journey. The ending credits tells us that the policy of taking half-castes from their homes stayed in effect until 1970. Your audience will probably be like ours. They politely streamed out in silence with the reverential respect of one leaving a funeral.

RABBIT-PROOF FENCE runs 1:34. It is rated PG for "emotional thematic material" and would be acceptable for kids around 9 and up.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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