Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)
I know very little about the Aboriginals of Australia, a similar course of history has been made like the aboriginal people of North America. I saw Rabbit Proof Fence (2002) as a chance to learn about another aspect of history (as best you can through film). Focusing on three girls who’re taken from their native home, that is already behind a wire fence. Due to their mixed heritage the government believes its best to assimilate as best as possible these children into Anglicised society, something which was attempted in America as mentioned in Thomas King’s book The Inconvenient Indian, going into detail about how protestant church tried to educated native children in the teachings of their religion and ultimately white American society. It failed for many reasons with ramifications for the individuals who went there. However here in Australia, around the same time in 1931 the aim was to stop the native culture growing, taking those who may stand a chance to look like white people the chance of a better life. To me it’s shocking that such backward ideas even occurred in the 20th century regarding race, even in peace time. This practice I learnt was carried on until the 1970’s.
It’s not about that policy really, serving more as a backdrop for these three girls, two sisters and a cousin to break free from a potential life they would regret to that with their families. Molly Craig (Everlyn Sampi), Daisy Craig Kadibill (Tianna Sansbury) and Gracie Fields (Laura Monaghan) are all children of the open country who from the first time we see them are happy, even living with a few white men around to patrol the area near the 3′ fence that stretches for hundreds of miles. When the chief protector of Aboriginals A.O. Neville (Kenneth Brannagh) requests their removal to a centre to be trained to become servant their lives are thrown upside down. From the moment they’re taken from their homes and families there is a strong need to get back.
The centre is little more than a few huts in the outback, housing the children and the nurses, who are supposed to lure the children in, there is a sinister hope of a better life, unwanted but theirs if they train for it. It feels like a prison with open doors, escape looks to be impossible with an expert tracker Moodoo (David Gulpilil) working for them. None of this stops these eager young girls to break free, not even giving the centre a chance, they make a break for it.
What begins is a journey across open country that would kill most children without the properly training of survival skills to make it through the harsh country. Set against breathtaking landscapes as they soon reach the fence once more, hope is in sight, yet seems so far when they learn they’re more territories cordoned off. Meeting along the way, both sympathetic and unfriendly white people who know they are on the run. I was pleased to see such positive interactions between the two races. Even whilst police and Moodoo the silent tracker are hot on their trail. Providing moments of tension when it could all end for them in an instant. The ingenuity of these girls is incredible.
Based on real events makes this film more engaging, to know this policy existed that had the ability to break-up families and destroy lives. Whilst three girls made a break for it in the hope of the life they want to live. Something which the Australian government took a while to learn which makes this tale all the more shocking. I would have liked the film to carry on with subtitles for the aboriginals, however they wouldn’t reflect that transition of the English language that had obviously taken place. Even though whilst the girls were alone for the majority of the film they could have spoken in their native language. That is my only criticism of a film that bring a countries past mistake to light, whilst reminding us of the human story at the heart of this.