Film Review: Rabbit-Proof Fence
A haunting look into one of the less progressive Australian social policies...
The 'Stolen Generation' as they became known refers to an estimated 100,000
aboriginal children who fell victim to an absurd Australian government policy
during a 60 year period from the 1910s right up to the 70s.
The children who usually - but not always - were half-caste in origin were forcibly removed from their families in order to assimilate them into white society and culture. However, far from providing the children with better health, education and ample opportunities, they often grew up isolated and misfitting in missionary settings or were fostered out into abusive and volatile families. The resulting loss of identity, language and tradition has led to untold damage which in recent years has seen courtroom litigation by the victims dominate the Australian media.
Rabbit-Proof Fence is a haunting tale of just three of those young victims as they make an epic journey across Australia. Having found themselves at a missionary 1,500 miles from their families Molly, Daisy & Gracie plan and implement an escape back to their homeland and culture. The journey takes weeks and much skill and deviousness is employed by the girls in order to avoid being caught as police nationwide go all out to recapture them.
The opening scenes of the girls removal from their families are particularly gut-wrenching and set a sombre mood for the remainder of the film. The young actresses playing the girls are terrific in their stoical portrayal of socially isolated orphans. Kenneth Branagh chillingly plays the despicable and aptly nick-named 'Mr. Devil' - a government official in aboriginal affairs who holds the girls future in his calculating hands.
A mention must be given to the cinematography which is superb in capturing the uncompromising, vast and variable Australian landscape, almost a character in itself. The film is directed by Philip Noyce who most people will be more familiar with as director of 'The Bone Collector' and has some equally haunting music by Peter Gabriel. This is a movie that may stir particular emotional connections from an Irish audience in view of recent media highlights of past Irish clerical misadventures, nevertheless any sentient audience couldn't help but be moved.