Molly, Daisy, and Gracie walking home across the Australian desert
Passover begins in a few days. Soon, Jews all over the world will celebrate and remember the ancient Hebrews’ escape from Egyptian bondage as they made their way across the Sinai desert towards the Promised Land, now present-day Israel.
This week’s movie offering is also a story about escape from bondage, and it involves a long trek across an inhospitable desert. But the events in this film occur far, far away from the Middle East.
Rabbit Proof Fence, adapted from Doris Pilkington’s book Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence, is loosely based on the childhood experiences of the author’s mother Molly Craig. Craig, a mixed race Aborigine, was forcibly removed from her family during the early 1930’s as part of Australia’s program to re-educate and absorb half-caste children into the white community. The program was created and championed by Commissioner of Native Affairs A. O. Neville, whose stated intention was to “uplift” the Aboriginal people. Here is a segment where Neville, played by Kenneth Branaugh, explains his intentions to a group of Australian women. Warning: This is quite chilling:
As a result of Neville’s program, Craig and two of her young relatives were placed in a detention center 990 miles away from their home in Jigalong, Western Australia. The girls escaped from their jailors and made their way back to Jigalong by following a pest-exclusion fence erected to keep rabbits and other vermin out of farming areas. In the film, one of the girls is captured. However, Molly and her sister Daisy successfully complete the trek and escape detection by the officials who pursue them across the Australian wilderness.
Rabbit Proof Fence primarily plays as a suspense film, pitting the authorities and an experienced Aborigine tracker (veteran Australian actor David Gulpilil) against the resourcefulness and determination of 14 year old Molly, who acts as the “Moses” of the little group fighting to make their way across the desert. As portrayed by child actor Everlyn Sampi, Molly is calm, confident and wise beyond her years. She turns out to be a formidable opponent, using her knowledge of the Australian outback to outfox the authorities every step of the way.
Note: The practice of separating half-caste children from their families continued well into the second half of the 20th century.
On February 13, 2008, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued a formal apology for the forced removal of generations of Aboriginal children from their families.
You can download Rabbit Proof Fence amazon.com by clicking onto the following link:
In addition, you can purchase a DVD of this film by clicking onto the following link:
Finally, you can purchase the Pilkington book by clicking onto the following link:
Pluses: Great performances by all involved in this project. David Gulpilil’s expressive face speaks volumes about the mistreatment of the Aborigines depicted in this film. Peter Gabriel’s film score, an ambient soundscape which includes Aboriginal percussion, didgeridoo, and bird song, is beautiful and haunting.
Minus: None that I can think of. Warning: Ready your four handkerchiefs for the conclusion of this movie. It’s a tear-jerker.
Cast: Kenneth Branaugh, David Gulpilil, Everlyn Sampi, Laura Monaghan, Tianna Sansbury, Ningali Lawford.
Director: Philip Noyce
Rating: PG (for emotional thematic material)
English, West Australian Aborigine dialect (subtitled)
Length: 94 minutes
“Rabbit Proof Fence (film).” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 7 March 2017. Web. 7 April 2017.
“Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 7 March 2017. Web. 7 April 2017.
“A. O. Neville.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 27 March 2017. Web. 7 April 2017.
“Stolen Generations.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 5 April 2017. Web. 7 April 2017.