Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)



Director:  Phillip Noyce

Starring:  Everlyn Sampi (Molly Craig), Tianna Sansbury (Daisy Kadibill), Laura Monaghan (Gracie Fields), David Gulpilil (Moodoo), Ningali Lawford (Maud), Myarn Lawford ( Molly's Grandmother), Deborah Mailman (Mavis), Jason Clarke (Constable Riggs), Kenneth Branagh (A.O. Neville), Natasha Wanganeen (Nina, Dormitory Boss), Garry McDonald (Mr. Neal at Moore River), Roy Billing (Police Inspector), Lorna Leslie (Miss Thomas), Celine O'Leary (Miss Jessop), Kate Roberts (Matron at Moore River)

Three aborigine girls break away from their assimilation school to head back home.  Based on a true story. 



The year is 1931, the place is the state of Western Australia.  The Aborigine Act controls the lives of the indigenous peoples in every detail.  A. O. Neville, Chief Protector of the Aborigines, is the legal guardian of every Aborigine in the state with the power to remove any "half-caste" child (mixture of Aborigine and white) from their family, from anywhere in the state. 

Older sister Molly, younger sister Daisy and cousin Gracie live in Jigalong. They are biracial ("half-caste") children.  They are happy with their lives in Jigalong and are curious when they see the white men building a very long fence.  This is the rabbit-proof fence to prevent the spread of the very invasive rabbit  of North America to the eastern part of Australia.  The fence is some 1,500 miles long.  (The fence is also symbolic of a barrier built by the white between themselves and the Aborginies.)

Although the kids are happy, Mr. Neville (nicknamed Mr. Devil by the Aborigines) has the girls rounded up and forcibly taken to the Moor River Native Settlement, some 1,200 miles south of Jigalong, where the children would be taught how to be good domestic servants and farm laborers.  The whitest of the children will be able to get a higher class of education at "proper" schools.

The racism inherent in the Aborigines Act is blatant and disgusting.  Mr. Neville talks about the "problem" of the half-castes and states that no one wants a third race to add to the problems of the existing two.  He follows the policy of interbreeding the half-casts with whites so that by the third generation the Aborigine characteristics will be "bred out" and they will pass completely as whites. 

The Moor River Native Settlement is basically a prison for the children.  They live in quarters out of  the old days in the American South where prisoners were kept in barracks and made to work on the chain gang.  What is so damning, is that the whites, and especially Mr. Neville, think that this is a good situation for the half-castes  -- that they are actually helping the half-castes to a better life. 

Any run away is whipped and then kept in solitary confinement in the "boob," a little tin shed.  Molly quickly concludes from her captivity that this is one "bad place."  And she decides that she will go home by walking the 1,200 miles back to Jigalong. 

This is the story of that journey back home.   Mr. Devil does everything he can to find the three girls.  He just can't possibly imagine that the girls don't realize that he has their best interests at heart. 

Everlyn Sampi as Molly Craig was very good in the role and Tianna Sansbury as Daisy Kadibill was just very, very cute. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


See The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978).



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