Based on the true story of three young Aboriginal girls Molly, Gracie, Daisy (Evelyn Sampi, Laura Monaghan, Tianna Sansbury): in 1931 they were forcibly removed from their families at Jigalong WA and taken to a camp 1500 miles away at Moore River to be trained as domestic servants, all part of official Government policy. Molly leads her younger sister and cousin on a daring escape and in a bid to find her way home, following – on foot – the rabbit-proof fence that cuts across the Gibson Desert and towards Jigalong. But WA’s Chief protector of Aborigines, A.O. Neville (Kenneth Branagh) does his best to recapture them, with help from black tracker David Moodoo (David Gulpilil).
 

4
A bold and timely film about the stolen generations.

The year is 1931, and, after over 100 years of colonisation, Indigenous Australians have seen their nomadic lifestyle threatened by the spread of so-called civilisation. Governments faced with what they see as a problem with half-caste children, establish a policy of removing such kids from their aboriginal mothers for their own good. Mr. Neville, who is in charge of all the aboriginals in Western Australia, authorises the removal of three little girls, 14-year-old Molly, her 8-year-old sister, Daisy, and her 10-year-old cousin, Gracie, from their mothers in the community of Jigalong. The terrified children are transported 1200 miles to the Moore River Native Settlement, where they're treated like naughty girls at an English boarding school, forced to speak English and stripped of their traditional culture. The resourceful Molly seizes an opportunity to escape, taking her sister and cousin with her, and the children begin the long journey north, following the rabbit-proof fence, and pursued by an aboriginal tracker and a white policeman.

After 15 years of making superior Hollywood fare, Phillip Noyce has returned to Australia with this bold and timely film about the stolen generations. It's an amazing, true story – and, when we see the real Molly and Daisy, now elderly women, at the end of the film, it's a truly magical moment. The children are wonderful, and Christopher Doyle's deliberately grainy cinematography vividly evokes the vastness of this formidable continent. Kenneth Branagh doesn't make Neville a monster; this pasty faced, stitched-up bureaucrat genuinely believes he's doing the best thing for the children, and Branagh's portrayal of a smug racist is all the more chilling for that. David Gulpilil is wonderful as the tracker who comes to admire the children he's pursuing.

Perhaps the film lacks a touch of poetry, a grandness. But it's an important, and beautifully made, saga which provides plenty of food for thought.

 

Watch 'Rabbit-Proof Fence'

Friday 14 January, 6:50pm on SBS World Movies
Sunday 16 January, 1:55pm on SBS World Movies
Wednesday 26 January, 10:00am on NITV

Now streaming at SBS On Demand

PG
Australia, 2002
Genre: History, Adventure
Language: Aboriginal, English
Director: Phillip Noyce
Starring: Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, Laura Monaghan, Kenneth Branagh, Deborah Mailman, David Gulpilil

Streaming until March 1st, 2022 at SBS On Demand:
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