The fact that Rabbit-Proof Fence is based on a true story makes the story’s central themes that much bigger. The story has elements of racism and essentially slavery and what makes those issues so prominent is the fact that it takes place in Australia. The film is a reminder of the fear and animosity the “white” man had towards the “black” man. In a screenplay written by Christine Olsen, from a book written by Doris Pilkington (the actual daughter of one of the main characters), spins a tale of hope and survival in the Australian Outback.
Set in the early 1930’s, the Australian government set forth a policy that children who were fathered by white men to the local aboriginal women (also known as half-castes) were detrimental and must be saved from a black society for fear their “white genes” would overcome them and allow them to rally the aborigines to stand up for their rights. Three children, Molly Craig (Everlyn Sampi), Daisy Craig Kadibill (Tianna Sansbury), and their cousin Gracie Fields (Laura Monaghan), are ripped from their family by a government official and taken to a type of school to prepare them for menial labor, such as domestic servants. The girls are there only for a short time before they make a daring escape to travel over 1,200 miles to return home. Kenneth Branagh plays A. O. Neville, an administrator of the relocation policies of the government, who wants to track these children to return them to the “school.” David Gulpilil plays the tracker Moodoo, who pursues the girls across the country, and also in pursuit are government authorities, most notably Constable Riggs (Jason Clarke). It is somewhat sad to see, as we are told, these relocation policies remained in effect until 1970. That is one of the things that make the movie, particularly the ending, so emotional.
On their journey, we see the vast scenery that stretches across the Australian landscape. They make it to a fence that stretches for miles and leads them home. The fence is made to keep rabbits from getting on the aborigines’ farmland, thus the title of the film. The girls travel along this fence for most of the trip. It is not until the girls begin their trek across the country that we realize the determination and hope in these girls. The trip is a long one. They do face some obstacles, but they do overcome them. For me, the film began a little slow but picked up in the second act. And once the girls began their long journey home, I was fixed on them, going through the emotional and physical journey with them.
The girls showed raw emotion that brought life into the characters. As the tracker, Gulpilil did not have much dialogue, but his use of facial expression and gestures showed his character traits of being strong-willed and determined. Branagh had a quiet, menacing charm about him with a strong determination to find the children, and Clarke displayed a sense of urgency with a higher level of energy.
This film keeps up a steady pace through most of its 94 minute run time. Directed by Philip Noyce, Rabbit-Proof Fence is filled with emotion and is a testament of the human spirit.