Rabbit-Proof Fence

Starring:
Everlyn Sampi as Molly
Tianna Sansbury as Daisy
Laura Monaghan as Gracie
David Gulpilil as Moodoo
Ningali Lawford as Molly’s Mother
Myarn Lawford as Molly’s Grandmother
Deborah Mailman as Mavis
Jason Clarke as Constable Riggs
Kenneth Branagh as Mr. Neville
Natasha Wanganeen as Dormitory Boss (Nina)
Garry McDonald as Mr. Neal
Roy Billing as Police Inspector
Lorna Leslie as Miss Thomas
Celine O’Leary as Miss Jessop
Kate Roberts as Matron

Special Features:
Following The Rabbit-Proof Fence Documentary
Feature Commentary with Director Phillip Noyce, Featuring Musician Peter Gabriel, Actor Kenneth Branagh, Screenwriter Christine Olsen, and Author Doris Pilkington Garimara

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Running Time: 94 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film is based on a true story.

In 1931, the Australian government has instituted a program to deal with half-caste children in the country. Half aborigine, half white, the children are looked at as a corruption of the distinct racial boundaries. The program, run by Mr. Neville, intends to remove the half-caste children from their families and put them in a school. By training them in English culture and selectively breeding them, he intends to slowly wipe them out and return the races to their normal distinctions.

Molly, Daisy, and Grace are three young girls who Mr. Neville has recently targeted. They are removed from their mothers and homes and put in the state run school 1200 miles away. However, Molly does not accept their brainwashing. Using her aborigine hunting skills, she leads her sister and cousin on a trek through the wilderness to their home. She intends to follow the rabbit-proof fence, which stretches across the continent, back to her home. The three must face the harsh environment, Neville’s trackers, and other hazards in order to make their amazing journey.

Rabbit-Proof Fence is rated PG for emotional thematic material.

The Movie:
This film was directed by Phillip Noyce. He also directed Harrison Ford in Patriot Games and Clear And Present Danger as well as The Saint, The Bone Collector, Sliver, and more. Despite his background for big budget films, Rabbit-Proof Fence is a much smaller scale film. This doesn’t make it any less impressive or compelling.

This film is particularly interesting because it was based on a true story. If it hadn’t been true, the plot would have been too unrealistic to be believable. It’s hard to believe that the Australian government would have sponsored such a program, especially up until 1970. But Noyce takes a rather interesting approach in handling it. He doesn’t demonize the people involved. As racist and wrong as these people’s views are towards the half-castes, Noyce makes a point to show that the people had good intentions. They truly believed they were doing the right thing with these children. It’s quite an accomplishment for Noyce to make you completely disagree with these people while not hating them at the same time. It also makes them a little scarier because of it. The easy road would have been to portray them as comic book villains, but he doesn’t do that.

The three girls who star in this movie were complete unknowns. This was their first acting job, but they end up looking like pros. You really feel for them from the moment they are torn away from their family. When they end up in the wilderness on their own, you also believe that they really are capable of handling themselves. Their consistent ability to outwit their pursuers makes the movie entertaining. Kenneth Branagh does a particularly fine job as the racist Mr. Neville.

The scenery is beautiful and the score is uniquely Australian. Peter Gabriel did it and it actually was nominated for a Golden Globe. This is a film that many people probably missed in theaters, but it’s well worth checking out on DVD if you get the chance. It’s a first rate movie on survival as well as a tale about the horrors of racism.

The Extras:
This DVD is really light on the extras, but that’s understandable since it isn’t a genre film.

Following The Rabbit-Proof Fence Documentary – I thought this documentary was going to be about the true story of the three girls. I thought it would have interviews with the girls and talk about the history behind the story. Unfortunately, that isn’t what it is at all. It’s entirely about the making of the film. Mainly featured is the casting process for the three girls, training them how to act, and the trials and tribulations making the movie. It’s a warts and all documentary. Everlyn Sampi is shown frequently having teenage girl temper tantrums that repeatedly jeopardize the film. Noyce is shown casting one girl only to decide she’s not right late in the game, then casting another. It’s very interesting, but I was more interested in the true story. For that, the commentary holds more information.

Feature Commentary with Director Phillip Noyce, Featuring Musician Peter Gabriel, Actor Kenneth Branagh, Screenwriter Christine Olsen, and Author Doris Pilkington Garimara – This is one of the driest commentaries I’ve ever heard. Noyce and the others basically read what seems to be pre-written text in a monotone voice. Their commentary is jam packed with interesting bits of information about the history of the story, the filming process, and more, but it might also have the potential to put you to sleep. One of the most interesting comments comes from Philip Noyce. He talks about how the screenwriter called him up at 3 am to push this script on him. Not only was he uninterested, but he was developing The Sum Of All Fears with Harrison Ford at the time. Ford was so demanding on the script that Noyce got sick of it, gave up, and made Rabbit-Proof Fence instead. Noyce makes no effort to hide his contempt for Ford and the Hollywood Machine. It’s quite a thing to hear him say what he does. The problem is you just have to have the patience to wait for him to discuss it. Rarely does he talk about what’s happening on the screen through the film.

The Bottom Line:
This is an excellent film that many people may have missed. It’s well worth renting at the very least.

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