Directed by Phillip Noyce, starring Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, Laura Monaghan, Kenneth Branagh, David Gulpilil, Ningali Lawford, Deborah Mailman and Jason Clarke.
Based on a true story about the hugely sensitive issue of Australia's "stolen generations", 'Rabbit-Proof Fence' is a powerful, yet flawed film.
During the first half of the twentieth century it was official government policy to forcibly remove half caste Aboriginal children from their families and send them away to be trained as domestic servants and integrated into white society. Thousands of Aboriginal children were sundered from their families and communities and 're-educated' in state-controlled camps.
In 1931 three young part-Aboriginal girls were torn from their mothers' arms in Jigalong, Western Australia and taken 1,500 miles away to the Moore River Native Settlement. Fourteen-year old Molly escaped with her sister Daisy, eight, and their cousin Gracie, ten, and, following the rabbit-proof fence that bisects western Australia, walked home through the inhospitable desert terrain. This film is based on their story.
As with recent Irish release 'The Magdalene Sisters', the lines between the importance of the subject matter and the quality of the film are blurred. Given that the facts of the stolen generations have been suppressed and hidden by the Australian government - and that children were still being removed from their families as late as the 1970s - 'Rabbit-Proof Fence' focuses deserved attention on past ignominy.
Unfortunately, in an effort to dispassionately tell such an emotive story, director Philip Noyce effectively distances us from the girls so that we're outraged but never really affected by their predicament. There's little sense of the length of their trek and, as characters, they're subsumed into the shimmering desert landscape of Christopher Doyle's cinematography.
'Rabbit-Proof Fence' is undoubtedly an important story about a shameful episode in Australia's past. As a cinematic experience, however, it falls short.