7.4/10
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254 user 58 critic

Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

Trailer
1:25 | Trailer
In 1931, three half-white, half-Aboriginal girls escape after being plucked from their houses to be trained as domestic staff, and set off on a journey across the Outback.

Director:

Phillip Noyce

Writers:

Doris Pilkington (book) (as Doris Pilkington Garimara), Christine Olsen (screenplay)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 23 wins & 24 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Everlyn Sampi ... Molly Craig
Tianna Sansbury ... Daisy Craig Kadibill
Laura Monaghan Laura Monaghan ... Gracie Fields
David Gulpilil ... Moodoo
Ningali Lawford Ningali Lawford ... Maud - Molly's Mother
Myarn Lawford Myarn Lawford ... Molly's Grandmother
Deborah Mailman ... Mavis
Jason Clarke ... Constable Riggs
Kenneth Branagh ... A.O. Neville
Natasha Wanganeen Natasha Wanganeen ... Nina, Dormitory Boss
Garry McDonald Garry McDonald ... Mr. Neal at Moore River
Roy Billing ... Police Inspector
Lorna Lesley Lorna Lesley ... Miss Thomas (as Lorna Leslie)
Celine O'Leary Celine O'Leary ... Miss Jessop
Kate Roberts Kate Roberts ... Matron at Moore River
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Storyline

Western Australia, 1931. Government policy includes taking half-white, half-Aboriginal children from their Aboriginal mothers and sending them a thousand miles away to what amounts to indentured servitude, "to save them from themselves." Molly, Daisy, and Grace (two sisters and a cousin who are fourteen, ten, and eight) arrive at their Gulag and promptly escape, under Molly's lead. For several days they walk north, following a fence that keeps rabbits from settlements, eluding a native tracker and the regional constabulary. Their pursuers take orders from the government's "Chief Protector of Aborigines", A.O. Neville, blinded by Anglo-Christian certainty, evolutionary world view, and conventional wisdom. Can the girls survive? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

What if the government kidnapped your daughter? It happened every week in Australia from 1905 to 1971. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for emotional thematic material | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

David Gulpilil (Moodoo) portrayed a tracker character in Rolf de Heer's The Tracker (2002) and this movie. See more »

Goofs

Far into the story the film shows the view from Mr. Neville's office window, allowing us to see a few applicants. Among those is a couple whose application had been rejected early in the story by Mr. Neville. Obviously the same set served different scenes that were far apart in time. See more »

Quotes

Gracie Fields: [in native language to her cousins] New clothes!
Miss Jessop: [in English] This is your new home. We don't use that jabber here. You speak English.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The painting songs sung by the Walpiri, Amatjere and Wangajunka women were not sacred songs, but were songs able to be performed in public. See more »


Soundtracks

Ngankarrparni
(Sky Blue Reprise) (2002)
Written by Peter Gabriel
Featuring The Blind Boys of Alabama and Myarn Lawford (as Myarn) and Ningali Lawford
See more »

User Reviews

Powerful story, beautifully shot and pretty well acted – more than deserves 90 minutes of your time
8 November 2002 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

1931 Australia. The state has passed a law that facilitates the collection of mixed race children to boarding camps where they are trained in their white side of their blood and to be home help as adults. The eventual aim is to prevent the growth of the aborigines as a race by watering down any mixed blood. A small group of children, Molly, Gracie and Daisy are taken from their mother and transferred across the country to one such camp. However Molly leads the trio in an escape from the camp and follow the rabbit proof fence that divides the country to return to her home.

I managed to fluke free preview tickets for this because the tickets I had come to collect were all gone! I must admit this film hadn't really appealed to me when I saw summaries and the poster, but I'm very glad that I did. The plot is based on fact and is a period of history that I admit I knew nothing about. I was surprised that this cruel and immoral practice carried on till as late as the seventies. The fact that the current Prime Minister of Australia refuses to apologise for it to this day shows that it is important that this story be told.

The film is told in a steady, unsentimental tone that allows the film to be powerful without the typically Hollywood use of sweeping music or other such lazy tools. Instead the circumstances of the story create the emotion. The story is a little weak at some points – once the children escape the film has a touch too many scenes of near-capture and escape to sustain the drama. Also the film (understandably) lends a lot of respect to the Aborigines – giving them a sense of mysticism that they maybe don't deserve. This is a slight problem when a key action involves a hawk that is supposedly summoned by their mothers (or something!). However these are minor complaints given the sweeping emotion of the film and the sheer power of the story.

The production and direction are excellent. Noyce has created a beautiful vision of the Australian Outback that really feeds the film. However the sound is also superb. Rhythmic footsteps ring out, crunching and banging of the landscape – it works best in a cinema I guess but it adds to the dramatic feel of the film, even if some sudden noises caused me to jump without any reason in the scene to do so.

The cast are mixed but are important where it matters. Sampi is amazing as Molly. She carries the film with her strength but also little facial expressions that reveal that she is a child, reveal her strength and tell so very much. Both Sansbury and Monaghan also do well but not as well as the lead. Branagh is also perfectly pitched. Neville could easily have been overplayed as a hammy villain of the piece but here he is played just right – he is a real man and we are left to decide for ourselves what to make of him. Some of the cast are average – some of the children in the camp can't act and the majority of the white police officers are maybe a shade too much caricatured as evil men who dislike the blacks.

Overall this film may struggle to draw the Friday night crowd just looking for a bit of escapism of a weekend, but it is still well worth a look. It is beautifully shot and uses the Australian landscape to great effect complimenting the enormity and emotion of the terrible, terrible true story. Not exactly cheerful or uplifting but a powerful story that deserves 90 minutes of your time.


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Details

Official Sites:

Hanway Films

Country:

Australia

Language:

English | Aboriginal

Release Date:

31 January 2003 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Rabbit-Proof Fence See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$88,352, 1 December 2002

Gross USA:

$6,199,600

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$16,217,411
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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