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Worth A Look: 23.3%
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6 reviews, 67 user ratings

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Rabbit-Proof Fence
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by Spinner

"A film with a good soul but a weak heart."
3 stars

Every now and then a film about something important comes along and you want to go with it. Your dreams for a better world make you want to believe in it, but ultimately, a film is just a vessel and important subjects do not important films make.

This is a film that relies on an underbelly of good intentions and a spirit of reconciliation, choosing, as it does, to explore a dark time in Australian history when half-caste (or non full-blooded) Aboriginal children were forcibly taken from their mothers in an attempt to assimilate them into White society and ultimately breed them out of existence.
The film comes at a time when the Australian government and its refugee-rejecting Prime Minister John Howard are still refusing to publicly apologise to indigenous people for the way they were treated by white settlers.
This refusal to apologise has been the subject of much debate in the lead up to the last Olympics and the Australian Centenary of Federation. In a history that includes wanton slaughter and imprisonment of an indigenous population, and, more recently alarming rates of substance abuse and suicide amongst young Aboriginal prisoners, it is not surprising to find the issue that seems to draw most emotion is that of the forced removal of children from their families. These children, many of whom never saw their parents, siblings or extended families again, have come to be known as The Stolen Generation.
Like most political debates, there is much disagreement about the term ‘Stolen Generation’ with some people arguing that the actual percentage of Aboriginal children removed from their families was so small that the suggestion of a ‘generation’ is a histrionic embellishment.
In the last few months the Australian Government forced a standoff with a foreign vessel that had rescued refugees on their way to Australia and used the political will and machinations of a civilised western government to redirect those same refugees to small Pacific Island nations and New Zealand rather than have them set foot on Terra Australis.
So Rabbit Proof Fence is a timely film and one which takes an extra-ordinary risk as traditionally films about Aboriginals have not fared well at the Australian box office.
Perhaps it is for this reason that the film has the feel of something that has been watered down. It seems diluted and deliberately restrained. Despite a promising performance from Everlyn Sampi in the lead role of Molly, and cinematography that captures the landscape without romanticising it, Rabbit Proof Fence does not have enough emotional resonance, character development or dramatic energy to sustain it.
The story is about three young girls who walk for nine weeks (over 1500 miles) across outback Australia, along a rabbit fence (built to protect farms from an encroaching rabbit population). The girls want to be reunited with their mother after they are forcibly taken to an outback school to be anglicised and trained as domestic help. It’s set in 1931, but apparently the policy of removing children continued until 1970.
In some respects it’s hard to completely believe this story, from a historically accurate point of view, and from the way it is portrayed in the film. It’s not just the distance factor, it’s the suggestion that authorities knowing the girls are walking a path adjacent to the rabbit proof fence still do not manage to recapture them.

But, this aside, the film establishes the removal of the children far too quickly. There is precious little time to see them interacting with their mother and grandmother. Basically they hunt a goanna and the next thing you know a solitary young policeman is packing them into the back of a police car. The obligatory shots of the mother and grandmother banging on the car’s windows and children wistfully looking back through a trail of dust loses the opportunity to be heart breaking because we have not come to know the depth of the relationships.
In fact, as the film progresses, the most frequent reminder of the mother and grandmother is of them standing beside the wire rabbit fence looking sadly into the distance. This lack of emotional context is ultimately emphasised when the girls make it home. The reunion is portrayed in such a stand-offish way that it seems a considerable let down.
However, the main problem is that while the story is conceptually large and universally inspiring – human spirit overcoming all odds – it is not very dramatically interesting. Phillip Noyce has made a film that is virtually devoid of tension. There is never a feeling that the girls will not succeed. The film relies heavily on internal conflict but finds few ways to represent this dramatically in the external actions of the characters.
It may be that Noyce has tried to capture the silent resilience of the characters but in some ways it plays out like an old and uncomfortable note that sounds a lot like ‘noble savage.’
Those chasing the girls are perfunctory characters. Kenneth Branagh (Mr Neville a.k.a. Devil) gives a pedestrian performance and never seems anything more than a weakish misguided do-gooder and this pretty much sums up nearly every white character in the film, including a handful of people who help the girls by giving them food and clothing.
The Aboriginal tracker who follows the girls seems to find an unspoken respect or empathy with them, allowing himself to be less dedicated to his job. But his perpetual silence doesn’t help to bring out the conflicts that must surely haunt someone who must hunt his own people down.

Overall, this is a film that has soul but not a lot of heart. It deserves a wide audience, not because it is a powerful engaging film with something of great importance to say, but because you have to start somewhere and this is as good a place as any.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=5779&reviewer=288
originally posted: 02/23/02 01:39:12
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User Comments

4/13/16 Katrina Weiss Very determined kids, but a bittersweet ending. 4 stars
2/14/11 daveyt harrowing subject and well acted by the girls, 1500 mile journey made to look far too easy 3 stars
7/22/10 amartha i love this movie...emotional 5 stars
7/21/08 BOOFA This movie is horrible. The sense of distance isn't shown well and it's just another Bmovie 2 stars
3/18/08 shit head it was mad 4 stars
11/16/06 kara very good but i found molly didnt express the way she should of 4 stars
10/16/06 jose bererro awsome. to cool 4 school 5 stars
10/07/06 SL too plain, and authenticity of the Stolen Generation is questionable.. 2 stars
9/12/06 JR Sad that so few people will love and understand this movie. 5 stars
11/29/05 S A McKinley heartwrending 5 stars
11/07/05 none of your bisness stooooooooopid 1 stars
11/01/05 summer a quality film!!! worth a 10 star rating!! 5 stars
10/26/05 Lin Great and worth watching it 5 stars
10/24/05 Jo A good movie and definately worth watching! 4 stars
10/23/05 shandelle good 4 stars
8/26/05 ES Holy boring, why do critics rave about should obviously poor movies 1 stars
6/13/05 none great movie 5 stars
5/23/05 Linda Sharpe Very moving, similar to what happened to the mixed race children in Zimbabwe. 4 stars
3/10/05 Steph Awe-inspiring drama. Its so beautiful 5 stars
10/16/04 Charlene Javier Powerful doesn't begin to describe this. 5 stars
10/06/04 john bale No doubt well meaning in its way but a serious distortion of the truth. 3 stars
8/11/04 psycho dwarf avoids treacly pitfalls of the "kids with a cause" genre. 4 stars
4/17/04 anon Loved it 5 stars
4/01/04 Kaytie Chasm Its Fukn good aye ! itz really kool 1 stars
3/17/04 damien dylanson the movie sucked 1 stars
3/16/04 Dan Mackay Nothing over the top 3 stars
1/23/04 VW AMAZING, loved it! 5 stars
11/26/03 Sarah Packard It wasn't bad. Eye opener to what life was like for the half castes. Sad to watch 3 stars
11/09/03 Maysa Ashhab The best drama I have seen for years 5 stars
11/02/03 tehla levin it is excellant i loveit 5 stars
9/19/03 Jinnvisible Fine Film , Kenneth Branagh suits his rascist role, I wish he wasn`t in it, piss off Ken!! 4 stars
8/29/03 Kelly Mellinger touching and fascinating-not the best acting but good from kids who weren't actors to start 4 stars
7/20/03 matthew green filmmaking that stays out of the way, letting the amazing story tell itself. 5 stars
5/11/03 y2mckay Opens eyes to a dark chapter in Aussie history, but sometimes feels empty as the outback 4 stars
5/01/03 Diana Collado Great performance by the girls 4 stars
4/16/03 skye chapman could've and should've been so much more engaging 3 stars
4/02/03 Native American These are our stories. White people must see the RAPE of people and culture they commited 5 stars
1/21/03 Pinkline Jones Good film - Everlyn Sampi and co very good. Disturbing. 4 stars
12/17/02 Heather Great cinematography and Peter Gabriel soundtrack, a must see 5 stars
11/24/02 Colin Selby A MUST SEE MOVIE 5 stars
11/20/02 Zaharin Hamid aka The Movie Samseng Excellent movie. People who wish to see something different should really watch this one. 5 stars
10/23/02 Kelly Excellent 5 stars
9/28/02 Peter Sherlock A good try but ultimately a poor film. 3 stars
8/13/02 sam not bad and worth seeing if you want something new 4 stars
5/25/02 Hollie although it acked quiality acting and screen play, the overall power of it did some justice 4 stars
5/17/02 Amber Jarman Very good the best movie great acting involved 5 stars
5/17/02 viking Unforgetable !!! 5 stars
5/10/02 Catherine Cho really really really really cool 5 stars
4/28/02 ¤ Amy ¤ An excellent and most carefully detailed account of the stolen generation, must see!! 5 stars
4/27/02 Ella Hatten Its ok 3 stars
4/13/02 Tom Morgan Biased, I agree with the review, purely used to pull heartstrings, 2 stars
4/13/02 Pam Quite well done 4 stars
4/04/02 THIS MOVIE SUCKS R P F IS GAY 1 stars
4/03/02 Your dad Absolutley Brilliant! two very enthusiastic thumbs up 5 stars
3/28/02 Holly Salter Too timid. Probably because the director is afraid of upsetting Australian racists. 3 stars
3/24/02 your mum sucked ass 1 stars
3/21/02 Sartaj The movie is a profound experience. 5 stars
3/13/02 David An excellent Australian film - especially so, given the current climate. 4 stars
3/12/02 Matthew shit, biased 2 stars
3/09/02 nicholas mills this film is heart warming and unforgettable 5 stars
3/03/02 Jeff Walters Absolutely terrific. 5 stars
3/02/02 Lucas See it. Simple amazing story, well told! 5 stars
2/28/02 Vaughan Subtle and clever Sublime and cutting to whites. 4 stars
2/27/02 carp shit 2 stars
2/24/02 ^Elendil^ This is an amazing story. 5 stars
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  29-Nov-2002 (PG)



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