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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 23.3%
Average: 13.59%
Pretty Bad: 10.68%
Total Crap: 5.83%

6 reviews, 67 user ratings

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Rabbit-Proof Fence
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by Collin Souter

"A heartbreaking journey"
5 stars

“Rabbit-Proof Fence” seems to pick up where Peter Weir’s “Picnic At Hanging Rock” left off. What ever happened to those girls? What unspeakable horrors, if any, did they endure? Why did it happen? “Rabbit-Proof Fence,” also an Australian film, tells the story of three aborigine girls on a journey of survival and nobody can find them. Not the authorities, not the natives, not even their own mother. Only a fence that runs some 1,500 miles serves as the link to their retrieval and even that has its own mystery. What happened to those girls at Hanging Rock? Perhaps they just went for a walk, but didn’t make it. We’ll never know, though, will we?

“Rabbit-Proof Fence,” though, does not leave anything open to interpretation. It tells a true story about three sisters who were abducted by the Australian government. Cross-bred white/aborigine children, the movie tells us in an opening coda, would be taken away from their mothers and taken to a prison camp with horrible nuns and strict male teachers. The mixed-race children come from aborigine mothers and white males who like to have sex with aborigine women and then dispose of them, so to speak. Since these kids carry the white gene, the government figures that if mixed-race people marry one another and reproduce, the black gene will be phased out. The aborigine’s, like the Inuit in “Fast Runner,” live a simple, peaceful existence, but with a deep sense of spirituality.

The movie is seen through the eyes of Molly (Everlyn Sampi), a 14-year old aborigine girl who does not easily fit into the master plan of the British. She does not stand right away when shouted at to do so. She has suspicion in her eyes and the look of a warrior who won’t back down easily. She prefers to be the strong one, the protector of her two younger sisters, Gracie and Daisy (Laura Monaghan and Tianna Sansbury, respectively). While she learns the ways of the prison, she simultaneously plots their escape. Once that moment happens, the movie takes us to the vast tundra and desolate wasteland that is the Australian outback.

Everyone seems helpless at finding these girls. The relocation administrator and the man responsible for this treatment, A.O. Neville (Kenneth Branagh), has his maps handy and believes he knows what the girls will try next, but because of his lack of experience in the desert, he does not count on the locals and the natives to steer the girls’ in unexpected directions.

Director Phillip Noyce achieves something quite extraordinary with “Rabbit-Proof Fence.” He doesn’t beat us over the head with scenes of senseless torture on the kids. He doesn’t make the Neville out to be a megalomaniacal, cartoonish thug. He does not yank at the heartstrings at the film’s finale. In spite of this restraint, the movie still manages to achieve a sense of terror and instill a hatred for those who did the kidnapping as well as for those who are looking for those who escaped. And it managed to bring a tear to my eye at the end. A lesser movie probably would have told the story from a white general’s point of view, but “Rabbit-Proof Fence” doesn’t cheat us in that way.

Noyce also fills the camera with great wide-angle shots of the dessert as well as the grassy plains giving us a generous view of this beautiful and alternately terrifying country. Accompanied by a brilliant score by Peter Gabriel, “Rabbit-Proof Fence” gives the glorious sunsets and eerie moonrises of the deserts a hypnotic power not unlike “Koyaanisquatsi.” Noyce also captures the spookiness and displacement amongst the three children at the camp. One shot in particular, in which Molly must walk amongst the other kids up to the teachers in order to be inspected, is the sort of shot that can be scary without even trying. (I really do find it hard to believe, though, that Peter Weir did not direct this movie)

But one can’t finish a review of “Rabbit-Proof Fence” without mentioning the performances of the three leads. I’m always amazed at the amount of talent that exists out there in the world, and I’m always fond of movies that can open my eyes to it. “Fast Runner” did it earlier this year by introducing us to some very talented Inuit actors and “Rabbit-Proof Fence” does it as well. Evelyn Sampi has an extraordinary presence as Molly. She convinces us that survival is never out of reach and that no fence is too long if you want to get back to your family bad enough. The other two, Tianna Sansbury and Laura Monaghan, were also beautifully cast. I’m guessing the constant look of longing and sadness in their eyes convinced Noyce and his team to hire them.

“Rabbit-Proof Fence” is the sort of “true story” movie that will make you want to find the original source material as soon as possible (unlike, say, “Gangs of New York,” which just makes you want to see missing footage). So many things could have gone wrong with this movie, but Noyce and screenwriter Christine Olsen (who adapted the movie from Doris Pilkington’s book) have found the true essence of the story and stuck with it. “Rabbit-Proof Fence” is an emotionally and spiritually compelling journey seen through the right eyes, with the right actors and with the kind of visual flair that shows what great cinema can really do. The journey itself is no Picnic.

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originally posted: 12/30/02 16:37:15
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User Comments

4/14/16 Katrina Weiss Very determined kids, but a bittersweet ending. 4 stars
2/15/11 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
3/19/08 shit head it was mad 4 stars
11/17/06 kara very good but i found molly didnt express the way she should of 4 stars
10/17/06 jose bererro awsome. to cool 4 school 5 stars
10/08/06 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
11/30/05 S A McKinley heartwrending 5 stars
11/08/05 none of your bisness stooooooooopid 1 stars
11/02/05 summer a quality film!!! worth a 10 star rating!! 5 stars
10/27/05 Lin Great and worth watching it 5 stars
10/25/05 Jo A good movie and definately worth watching! 4 stars
10/24/05 shandelle good 4 stars
8/27/05 ES Holy boring, why do critics rave about should obviously poor movies 1 stars
6/13/05 none great movie 5 stars
5/24/05 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
10/17/04 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
4/18/04 anon Loved it 5 stars
4/02/04 Kaytie Chasm Its Fukn good aye ! itz really kool 1 stars
3/18/04 damien dylanson the movie sucked 1 stars
3/16/04 Dan Mackay Nothing over the top 3 stars
1/24/04 VW AMAZING, loved it! 5 stars
11/27/03 Sarah Packard It wasn't bad. Eye opener to what life was like for the half castes. Sad to watch 3 stars
11/10/03 Maysa Ashhab The best drama I have seen for years 5 stars
11/03/03 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
8/30/03 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
5/02/03 Diana Collado Great performance by the girls 4 stars
4/17/03 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
1/22/03 Pinkline Jones Good film - Everlyn Sampi and co very good. Disturbing. 4 stars
12/18/02 Heather Great cinematography and Peter Gabriel soundtrack, a must see 5 stars
11/24/02 Colin Selby A MUST SEE MOVIE 5 stars
11/21/02 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
9/29/02 Peter Sherlock A good try but ultimately a poor film. 3 stars
8/14/02 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
5/18/02 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
4/14/02 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
3/29/02 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
3/14/02 David An excellent Australian film - especially so, given the current climate. 4 stars
3/13/02 Matthew shit, biased 2 stars
3/10/02 nicholas mills this film is heart warming and unforgettable 5 stars
3/04/02 Jeff Walters Absolutely terrific. 5 stars
3/03/02 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
2/25/02 ^Elendil^ This is an amazing story. 5 stars
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  29-Nov-2002 (PG)



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