Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

Rabbit-Proof Fence
Directed by Phillip Noyce
Written by Christine Olsen based on the book by Doris Pilkington Garimara
(number 366)

Urgh. Now here’s a cheerful movie, a part of Australian history which is truly horrifying. How can people be this awful to each other? How can one white dude be given possession of a whole race of people? He controls what they can purchase, who they can marry and of course, kidnap their children to train them as household staff or, if they’re pale enough, send them to a school to be assimilated as white. It’s sickening.

I thought I could sort of cope by playing pokemon at the same time as watching, but when the scene game where the girls were forcibly removed from their mothers I ugly cried. And I think that’s a hundred percent the correct reaction to those events.

The film is shot beautifully. Not so arty as to be alienating for a mainstream cast. Not so slow or dry as to be boring, but certainly stunning, eerie, full of love for the Australian landscape and incomparably aching in its storytelling. I don’t know how else to describe it, but it is an ache. The arc of the huge sky, the dryness of the desert, the meagreness of comfort, it all creates an aching atmosphere.

Does it make me love the people? How can you watch this and not love the three girls? Molly in particular? It’s a simple film, in terms of plot, but he characterisations on this incredible journey are impeccable. The way Molly looks out for each of them, the way she is so single minded about getting home, the clever ways she outsmarts the tracker.

Bechdel test: Yes, over and over. Molly, Gracie and Daisy all talk to each other about getting away, about what’s going on, about not going to catch the tran. Plus they talk to their mothers and Mrs Jessop at the camp.

Best line:

well, not exactly best, but one of the most telling and stark lines from the rehabilitation village.
“They’re checking for the pale ones, they’re more clever than us. They can go to a regular school.”

State of Mind: Harrowing, beautiful, hard to watch, depressing, uplifting. Actually it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it might be. That early scene was intensely painful, but from there it’s kind of a great road trip movie. I take some comfort in knowing that although this was truly horrible, it’s no longer happening. I know some of the kids in the stolen generations have been reunited with their families. But how does a country recover from such atrocities? And that it went on or what, almost 40 years? And more, most countries have stories like this, events like this in their pasts. It’s horrible. We have to do better. I think movies like this are essential for showing the human cost, and for hopefully stopping things like this happening in the future. I can hope…

I need cuddles. Thankfully, it’s almost time to head to the airport to go on holiday in Rarotonga!

Watched movie count


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