Published Dec 01, 2002Rabbit-Proof Fence tells the compelling and true story of three "half-caste" girls who are taken away from their Aboriginal community by a government program in 1930s Australia that seeks to assimilate them into white society and eventually breed out their Aboriginal bloodline. 14-year-old Molly (Everlyn Sampi) leads her younger sister Daisy (Tianna Sansbury) and cousin Gracie (Laura Monaghan) in an escape from their internment camp and they set out on foot over the 1200-odd miles of harsh outback terrain to return home. Unlike previous escapees, the girls manage to elude capture by the camp's tracker Moodoo (David Gupilil), whose increasing respect for their tactics provides a nice depth to the chase. As their exploits become more widely known, unwanted attention and embarrassment starts to be directed at the government's Aboriginal program, much to the chagrin of its chief officer, A.O. Neville (Kenneth Branagh). The film does a wonderful job of exploring this massive and complex blight on Australia's recent history, one which the country is still reeling from, within the context of this relatively small human story. Its portrayal of the children being forcibly rend from their mothers' arms by the police is appropriately horrific, as is the depressing depiction of the camp. At the same time, while the three girls are clearly the heroes of this story, the film does well in trying to articulate the government's misguided position, as exemplified by the Neville character. Instead of a caricatured evil fool, Branagh's Neville is much more insidious as a banal civil servant who honestly believes he is helping the Aboriginal population "despite themselves" and is baffled when they don't appreciate his efforts. The three young actresses are remarkable. With very little dialogue between them, they manage to etch the toll of their epic travels onto their physical performances. Particularly striking is Everlyn Sampi's Molly, whose fierce determination hardly wavers throughout their incredibly taxing journey. Director Phillip Noyce nicely employs the starkly beautiful scenery of Western Australia to underline the seemingly impossible geographical obstacles that the girls are forced to overcome in their homecoming trek.