"And miles to go before I sleep/ And miles to go before I sleep" -- RobertFrost<br><br>Set in Western Australia in 1931, Rabbit-Proof Fence, a new film byAustralian director Philip Noyce (The Quiet American, Clear and PresentDanger), is a scathing attack on the Australian government's "eugenics"policy toward Aboriginal half-castes. Continuing policies begun by theBritish, the white government in Australia for six decades forcibly removedall half-caste Aborigines from their families "for their own good" and sentthem to government camps where they were raised as servants, converted toChristianity, and eventually assimilated into white society.<br><br>Based on the 1996 book, "Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence" by Doris PilkingtonGarimara (Molly Kelly's daughter), the film tells the story of threeAboriginal girls, 14-year old Molly Kelley, her 8-year old sister Daisy, andtheir 10-year old cousin Gracie. It shows their escape from confinement in agovernment camp for half-castes and their return home across the vast andlonely Australian Outback. It is a simple story of indomitable courage, toldwith honest emotion. Abducted by police in 1931 from their families atJigalong, an Aboriginal settlement on the edge of the Little Sandy Desert innorthwest Australia, the three girls are sent to the Moore River NativeSettlement near Perth. Here the children must endure wretched conditions.Herded into mass dormitories, they are not allowed to speak their nativelanguage, are subject to strict discipline, and, if they break the rules,are put into solitary confinement for 14 days. <br><br>Followed by the Aborigine tracker, Moodoo (a great performance from DavidGulpilil), the girls make their escape. Using a "rabbit-proof fence" as anavigation tool, they walk 1500 miles across the parched Outback to returnto Jigalong. The rabbit-proof fence was a strip of barbed-wire netting thatcut across half of the continent and was designed to protect farmer's cropsby keeping the rabbits away. The girls walked for months on end oftenwithout food or drink, not always sure of the direction they are going,using all their ingenuity and intelligence along the way just to survive.The stunning Australian landscape is magnificently photographed byChristopher Doyle, and a haunting score by Peter Gabriel translates naturalsounds of birds, animals, wind and rain into music that adds a mysticalfeeling to the journey. <br><br>The performances by amateur actors Evelyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, and LauraMonaghan (who had never seen a film before let alone acted in one) areauthentic and heartbreakingly affecting. Though the white officials andpolice are characterized as smug and unfeeling, they are more likebureaucrats carrying out official policies than true villains. KennethBranagh gives a strong but restrained performance as Mr. Neville, theminister in charge of half-castes. Rabbit-Proof Fence is an honest film thatavoids sentimentality and lets the courage and natural wisdom of the girlsshine through. This is one of the best films I've seen this year and hasstruck a responsive chord in Australia and all over the world. Hopefully,it will become a vehicle for reconciliation, so that the shame of the"Stolen Generation" can at last be held to account.<br><br>
Adventure / Biography
Adventure / Biography
Western Australia, 1931. Government policy includes taking half-caste children from their Aboriginal mothers and sending them a thousand miles away to what amounts to indentured servitude, "to save them from themselves." Molly, Daisy, and Grace (two sisters and a cousin who are 14, 10, and 8) arrive at their Gulag and promptly escape, under Molly's lead. For days they walk north, following a fence that keeps rabbits from settlements, eluding a native tracker and the regional constabulary. Their pursuers take orders from the government's "chief protector of Aborigines," A.O. Neville, blinded by Anglo-Christian certainty, evolutionary world view and conventional wisdom. Can the girls survive?
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