Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

If you were kidnapped by the government, would you walk the 1500 miles back home?

Between 1905 and 1971, the Australian government had a horrible policy. They forcibly removed all half-caste Aboriginal children to special training schools. The grown daughter of one of these children wrote a book about her mother's experiences. This film is an adaptation of that book.

The story takes place in 1931, when Molly, then 14, her sister Daily, then 8, and her cousin Gracie, then 10, are literally torn from the arms of their mothers, put in a cage, and taken 1,200 miles away to a school which is actually a sort of prison. Here, they are forbidden to speak their own language, they have to attend a Christian church, and are taught the ways of the white Australian culture around them. Led by Molly, the girls run away. And most of the film is the odyssey of their trek back home, following the rabbit-proof fence that bisects Australia, constructed to keep rabbits out of the pastureland.

The villain is clearly the white director of the school. It is amazing, but he actually believes in the racial theories that were prevalent at the time. He believes he is helping them and plays his role well, coming across as stupid and misguided rather than evil. The Aboriginal girls are all unknowns, and terrific actresses, as are the women who play Molly and Daisy's mother and grandmother. The courage and determination of the girls during their three-month journey, the people they meet along the way, and their efforts to dodge the trackers who have been sent to retrieve them by the school, is truly inspiring. This is all set against the backdrop of the Australian outback; the cinematography certainly captures its beauty.

The film is 94 minutes long and moves quickly. I immediately identified with the girls and felt their fear as well as their bravery as they made their way across the Australian continent. In a postscript to the story, we learn more about their lives. It did not turn out to be pretty. But two of the girls have survived into their nineties, and we meet them briefly. They are strong women with weathered faces, one of them walking with a cane, but clearly at home in their Outback surroundings.

The film is a lesson in inspiration and courage as well as a geography and history lesson about Australia. I loved it and highly recommend it. By Linda Linguvic

Torrent : here (Updated april 22)
All subs: here

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