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Rabbit-Proof Fence (2004)

1500 Miles Is A Long Way Home

Directed by:

Phillip Noyce

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 94 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

‘Rabbit-Proof Fence’ is a lot like ‘The Incredible Journey’, only with three little girls where the lovable domestic pets should be. It’s the true story of Molly, Daisy and Gracie, three young Aborigines who escape from a detention centre to embark on a 1500-mile journey home. Their only hope of finding the way back? A ruddy great rabbit-proof fence, stretching the full distance from one side of Australia to the other. Okay, so it’s no Great Wall of China – I mean, it’s just a fence. But it IS an impressive fence, and it’s also a total bugger if you happen to be a rabbit.

The film is set in the 1930s, the beginning of an abhorrent piece of legislation ruling that all “half-caste” Aborigine children be taken from their homes and detained in custom-made camps so as not to “contaminate” Australian society. Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury and Laura Monaghan play Molly, her younger sister Daisy and cousin Gracie, the three intrepid ankle-biters who stick it to the man (in this case represented by Kenneth Branagh as the merciless Government “Protector” of Aborigines) by breaking free and travelling all the way across Oz on foot.

The breath-taking scenery spotted along the way by director Philip Noyce makes it a work of outstanding visual beauty, and at times Christine Olsen’s screenplay (based on the book by Molly’s real-life daughter Doris Pilkington) genuinely tugs on the heart-strings. There’s not a lot of dialogue involved, but the words that are there work well and could have some of the softies among you reaching for the hankies.

If I have one major criticism of the film, it’s that it’s perhaps a little short, and certainly under-developed. The hardships they encounter while attempting to make it through the harsher areas of desert are only briefly touched upon, and more could have been made of the Aboriginal “Tracker” character who reluctantly (we assume) pursues our three heroines across the Outback.

That aside, this is an eye-opener of a film, covering ground rarely dealt with on the screen. It could easily get away with being longer, more detailed in its treatment of the historical/political side of things, and more graphic in its depiction of the detention centre. Perhaps it’s just one of those cases where less was decided to be more.

It's Got: Mile after mile of barren wasteland.

It Needs: Some good-quality walking boots.

DVD Extras A documentary titled ‘Following the Rabbit-Proof Fence’, and an audio commentary from cast and crew. DVD Extras Rating: 3/10

Alternatives:

The Magdalene Sisters

Summary

A touching tale of an appalling chapter in Australian history, told with great sensitivity if not great depth.

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