Retro Review: Rabbit Proof Fence

Written: December 4, 2002

In a year so full of Hollywood sequels, escapes and disappointments, you often have to mine a foreign country’s film vault to find a movie that reminds you what makes film so powerful. In this case, the country is Australia and the film is Rabbit Proof Fence.

During the 1930s in Australia, children born of an aboriginal & white couple had to be examined by a government body and determined what rights and privileges the child would have later in life.

Children picked out to be treated as whites were ripped away from their parents and sent to a finishing school where nuns would teach them to be proper Christians and to ignore their cultural upbringing. It was barbaric and inhuman.

Rabbit Proof Fence chronicles the harrowing true story of a young girl and her even younger siblings, who escape finishing school and walk over 1800 miles to hopefully be reunited with their mother.

From the moment the celluloid buzzes to life, you know the story and struggle of these youngsters. But it doesn’t seem to matter as the film’s epic struggle and brilliant direction pulls you in. Even though the story takes place in a foreign country and we aren’t completely familiar with what happened in 1930s Australia. The story seems to bridge a gap into our society as well. The story echoes how man seems to persecute and become territorial when faced with fear or an epic struggle, that is right or wrong. The Nazis did this to the Jews and white men did it to the American Indian.

We also did it to the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. Why does history continue to repeat itself? Why do we always try to conform or destroy those different from us?

Australian director Phillip Noyce seems to be on an epic quest of his own. Noyce started out with smaller Australian films and garnered critical and cult fame with his thriller “Dead Calm” which was partially responsible for launching the careers of Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill.

Noyce was then catapulted into the Hollywood limelight where he solidified the Jack Ryan film-franchise when he helmed “Patriot Games” and “Clear & Present Danger”. Noyce also brought forth the Hollywood thrillers “The Saint”, “Sliver” and “The Bone Collector”. In the past three years, Noyce has faded from the spotlight and seems to have gone full circle with “Rabbit Proof Fence” and his forthcoming “The Quiet American” which already has Oscar buzz circling it.

The direction is the spotlight in “Rabbit Proof Fence” as you can really absorb and appreciate the experience and perception a veteran filmmaker like Noyce has. There is a lot of magic in each frame as Noyce plays with warmth a lot when he photographs the children’s epic escape. I felt a lot of the scope and majesty in this film as when I witness films by other great Hollywood directors such as Ridley Scott, Martin Scorcese, John Ford and even David Lean. You just know when you see something special.

Did the film need to be more political about this moment in history? That is always the question when bringing a piece of history to the silver screen.

This movie in its unique way finds a way to stay on track and focus on the story at the center without becoming clouded by the political and government agendas surrounding it.

I would have liked to know more about why this program was implemented and I do want to know more as to why it was ever conceived. But for the purposes of this film it really isn’t needed to tell the story.

Sometimes it takes a small little movie like this to reawaken the love for movies in not only the director but in his audience as well.

(4.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer

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