(Following the) Rabbit-Proof Fence

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Vickie_M, Dec 10, 2002.

  1. Vickie_M

    Vickie_M Producer

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    There isn't a thread for the wonderful Rabbit-Proof Fence so I'm starting one.
    To begin, IFC will be showing a documentary, hosted by Kenneth Branagh, called "Following the Rabbit-Proof Fence" on December 12 (at 11:45am Central). It will be repeated on the 13th, at 2:15pm Central.
    Philip Noyce's Rabbit-Proof Fence tells the story of 3 young girls who take on the Austrailian government simply by wanting to go home and doing something about it.
    When thinking about what to write about this engrossing movie, I went to IMDB to see what others had said. I came across a comment that said everything I wanted to say, but much better than I ever could have. With all due pardons for this blatant liberty, and with much thanks to the person who wrote this, here it is:
    ================
    Howard Schumann
    Vancouver, B.C.
    Date: 2 December 2002
    Summary: A Scathing Attack on Racism
    "And miles to go before I sleep/ And miles to go before I sleep" -- Robert Frost
    Set in Western Australia in 1931, Rabbit-Proof Fence, a new film by Australian director Philip Noyce (The Quiet American, Clear and Present Danger), is a scathing attack on the Australian government's "eugenics" policy toward Aboriginal half-castes. Continuing policies begun by the British, the white government in Australia for six decades forcibly removed all half-caste Aborigines from their families "for their own good" and sent them to government camps where they were raised as servants, converted to Christianity, and eventually assimilated into white society.
    Based on the 1996 book, "Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence" by Doris Pilkington Garimara (Molly Kelly's daughter), the film tells the story of three Aboriginal girls, 14-year old Molly Kelley, her 8-year old sister Daisy, and their 10-year old cousin Gracie. It shows their escape from confinement in a government camp for half-castes and their return home across the vast and lonely Australian Outback. It is a simple story of indomitable courage, told with honest emotion. Abducted by police in 1931 from their families at Jigalong, an Aboriginal settlement on the edge of the Little Sandy Desert in northwest Australia, the three girls are sent to the Moore River Native Settlement near Perth. Here the children must endure wretched conditions. Herded into mass dormitories, they are not allowed to speak their native language, are subject to strict discipline, and, if they break the rules, are put into solitary confinement for 14 days.
    Followed by the Aborigine tracker, Moodoo (a great performance from David Gulpilil), the girls make their escape. Using a "rabbit-proof fence" as a navigation tool, they walk 1500 miles across the parched Outback to return to Jigalong. The rabbit-proof fence was a strip of barbed-wire netting that cut across half of the continent and was designed to protect farmer's crops by keeping the rabbits away. The girls walked for months on end often without food or drink, not always sure of the direction they are going, using all their ingenuity and intelligence along the way just to survive. The stunning Australian landscape is magnificently photographed by Christopher Doyle, and a haunting score by Peter Gabriel translates natural sounds of birds, animals, wind and rain into music that adds a mystical feeling to the journey.
    The performances by amateur actors Evelyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, and Laura Monaghan (who had never seen a film before let alone acted in one) are authentic and heartbreakingly affecting. Though the white officials and police are characterized as smug and unfeeling, they are more like bureaucrats carrying out official policies than true villains. Kenneth Branagh gives a strong but restrained performance as Mr. Neville, the minister in charge of half-castes. Rabbit-Proof Fence is an honest film that avoids sentimentality and lets the courage and natural wisdom of the girls shine through. This is one of the best films I've seen this year and has struck a responsive chord in Australia and all over the world. Hopefully, it will become a vehicle for reconciliation, so that the shame of the "Stolen Generation" can at last be held to account.
    =================
    All my inarticulate brain could think to say after reading that is, well, "what he said."
     
  2. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    I did a review of it in the alterna thread when I saw it at the Boston Film Festival: (after Standing In The Shadows Of Motown)
    Absolutely great movie; I encourage everyone to catch this. Phillip Noyce has really raised his game since leaving Hollywood.
     
  3. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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    I was supposed to see a test screening of this film...on September 11, 2001. Needless to say, Miramax cancelled it. They called me a few days later and offered me tickets to a different event, but I never followed up on it.

    Anyway, I still look forward to seeing it.

    DJ
     
  4. Vickie_M

    Vickie_M Producer

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  5. Holden Pike

    Holden Pike Stunt Coordinator

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    I saw Rabbit-Proof Fence at the Virginia Film Festival over a month ago and simply loved it. I'm looking forward to seeing it again. I'd give all three of those girls lots of awards, and Philip Noyce too for sheparding them through it so deftly. Great flick, definitely one of the best I've seen this year, and likely will remain so.
     
  6. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I saw Rabbit Proof Fence in Australia. A very powerful film. I consider this a must-see.

    If you are not aware, the film address an issue at the forefront of Australia coming to terms with its past policies concerning the Aborigines. The forced relocation of Aboriginal children was the subject of intense debate when I lived in Australia. For the record, the Howard Government’s position (at least last year) was that this did not happen and that they have nothing for which to apologize. I’m guessing that any further comment on the politics in Oz regarding this issue would cause this thread to be closed, so please note that I have not taken a position, but only commented on the theme of the film and its importance in today’s Australia.
     
  7. Karl_O

    Karl_O Stunt Coordinator

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    Even though I had not yet watched film myself, but what is a "half-caste"?
     
  8. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    The term as used, means the offspring of an Aboriginal and an European. In practice this was always a female Aboriginal and a male European. This would also refer to other racial mixes, but these were rare and the white Australians of the day were not concerned with non-white offspring.

    In strict usage, the term refers to the offspring of two different castes, or really one without caste (in India this would be an ‘untouchable’) and one parent with a certain, higher social caste (e.g. a Brahman). One parent with caste and one without: a half-caste.
     
  9. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    "Hey, you like my new fence? It's rabbit-proof."

    "Hey, that's really Noyce!"

    Haha, OK I'm a dork. I'll be seeing this one sometime next week, and I'm quite looking forward to it. Nice to see another little flick finding some fans.
     
  10. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    ouch!
     
  11. David Lawson

    David Lawson Screenwriter

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    I caught this film while I was in Fort Lauderdale on vacation (since I didn't think Cincinnati would get it) and must echo the praises above. I came home to find that Cincinnati did indeed get the film, which bodes well for it being distributed everywhere else in the country. It was nice to end my moviegoing experiences for the year on such a high note.
     
  12. Tim Ke

    Tim Ke Stunt Coordinator

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    i'm in melbourne (australia) here. I haven't seen the film yet, but for anyone who's interested a 2-disc DVD set was released about a month ago.
     
  13. Craig S

    Craig S Producer
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    Rabbit-Proof Fence finally opened in Houston this past weekend, and I saw it on Monday. It's truly a wonderful film, deserving to be mentioned in the same breath with Australian classics like Walkabout, Breaker Morant, & Gallipoli.
    The performances by the non-acting children were astonishing, but my favorite moments in the film were provided by David Gulpilil as the tracker Moodoo. He's a man who doesn't give much away, but there are a couple of instances where his understanding of and admiration of the girls he is pursuing flashes across his face and then is gone. Really nice, subtle work.
    I thought it was brave of the filmmakers to portray Brannagh's character not as a stock villain, but as a man who truly believed that he was helping the children he imprisoned. His ideas were so wrong, and yet so easily accepted, and that's much scarier than the standard Hollywood bad guy would have been.
    Interestingly enough, I saw another very good fact-based film yesterday (by an Australian director, no less) which portrayed children being used as political pawns by a misguided state. I'm referring to Bruce Beresford's Evelyn, starring Pierce Brosnan. While it's more sentimental & outwardly "Hollywood" than Rabbit-Proof Fence, it's still a worthy film and well worth seeking out.
     
  14. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    An extraordinary film, easily one of the best I've seen this year. Not only is it an imporant subject, but the work is as distinguished a piece of film-making as you'll currently find in theaters, with exquisite photography, taut editing and a terrific sound mix (the use of the rear channels for nature sounds effectively complements the visual sense of the enormous space in which these youngsters must find their way). I highly recommend Jason Seaver's review (link above), to which I can add very little.
    M.
    P.S. In November I posted a review of Noyce's other 2002 release, The Quiet American. It's as if he's entered a whole new phrase of his career, and I hope it lasts a long time.
     
  15. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    I want to thank you people for bringing this film to my attention.
    And I hope it will be to the attention of more of us.

    Cees
     
  16. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    I had a chance to see this film while I was in L.A. over the Christmas holidays but my plate was already full with other limited Oscar qualifying released films. I had already planned to see nine films over a five-day span, so this one had to go. Next time, I'll have to plan a longer year-end vacation in L.A. as I missed a truly excellent film.
    Rabbit Proof Fence is powerful, bold and at the same time, heartwrenching with its story, acting, music and photography. It tells a story that probably only a few in the Western world even knew about. How this situation was permitted to last until 1970 is incomprehensible.
    An amazing film and one of the year's best (2002).
    ~Edwin
     
  17. Elvie

    Elvie Stunt Coordinator

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    Missed this when it ran in the single theatre, 90 minutes away *grumble*. Can't wait for the dvd release so I do get a chance to see it ... heard great things but what can you do *shrug*

    Thanks to you guys for putting up the reviews, just confirms that I definately will be seeing this one :)
     
  18. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    Okay, for Brook and Edwin (and others) I'll try to explain the "motivations are not clear" aspect.

    I'm not talking about the part where a character recited the freaking plot to me (expository dialog). We get plenty of this, mostly from Branagh. He does it well, but it's not a very fleshed out way of presenting his character. Certainly I see the point that he thinks he's "doing the right thing". The film handles this with rather heavy hands actually, having him use basically the same line of "don't they know I'm trying to help them" several times.

    My problem is where is his real EMOTIONAL motivation in the actions taken. Not the actions of where he sends people to meet the girls or why he specifically brings the girls to the camp, or even why he has the camp. Again we have an expository scene to explain that with him speaking to a ladies group (this scene is done quite well despite the awkward expository convention used).

    What I didn't get is the big picture in terms of how any of these idea fit with anything. A perfect analogy is the fence itself. If I ask why it was being built, everyone of you will say "to keep rabbits on one side and farms on the other". That is unless you have some Australian history research in you as well.

    But that explanation is not enough. The very idea that the entire CONTINENT could be divided in half is ludicrous, the idea that no rabbits would get to the other side, not to mention what about all the rabbits already on the other side?

    And that's the same with Branagh's plan. I get the logistics of the plan, but if this is a GOVERNMENT PROBLEM enforceable by having police kidnap kids then why is he allowing mixed relationships in the first place? I see no white people protesting this idea. In fact I see no aborigines protesting it either, except when they come for the 3 girls. It reminded me of the SS in Nazi Germany except here everyone was basically pretty okay with it.

    Imagine a Nazi Germany where Germans are still having sex with Jews, only to then have their children taken...but NOT AT BIRTH??? and sent to a camp where they will be evaluated for breeding BACK TO GERMAN? That's what we have here basically.

    Why not breed back to aborigine if the bloodline is such a problem? And again why not just pick the kids up at the hospital, or why was the birth even allowed or why was the relationship tolerated, and so on.

    While I'm certain that all these ideas had explanations to them (obviously since this really happened), I found them ambiguous at best in the film.

    For me I think I would have preferred that they not even try to explain his side of it because it ends up coming across only half-explored. Branagh's character depth is less than Ralph Fienne's in Schindler's List I thought, despite his character being the more one-sidedly evil. This is not to say that Kenneth is not outstanding with what he had for scenes. I thought he worked them quite well. I'm just not fond of how the script told his side of things at all.

    Better to have stayed basically with the girls the entire time and left him as a more confusingly mysterious villain which would better represent what they had to face anyway (it wasn't like they knew his explanations or motivations anyway).


    BTW, I just read this at IMDb. It represents a bit of motivation that did not seem as stressed to me, nor was such a potential dynamic introduced to help us even understand how someone might think such a thing...
     
  19. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    BTW, I wish they had touched more on the adverse effects of the children placement program (like the girl they stay with). I assumed she was a program girl because IIRC they don't actually explain that. Meaning she could have just been an aboriginal housemaid rather than a half-caste placed in their home.
     
  20. Vickie_M

    Vickie_M Producer

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    You think too much while watching a movie Seth. And I don't mean "turn your brain off." You want every single little detail (and emotion) explained to you. No wonder you had problems with The Pianist.
     

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