The movie "Rabbit Proof Fence" was directed by Philip Noyce, and was adapted from a true story written by Doris Pilkington. It includes a score by Peter Gabriel, and acting by David Gulpilil ("Walkabout"). Everlyn Sampi stars as Molly Craig. More important (in this post) than the details of its plot and stars however, is what it represents.


Although the English settled Australia after its "discovery" in 1770 by Captain Cook, that doesn't mean that it wasn't already inhabited. In fact the landscape had a large number of native Aborigines already happily living in the dreaming. The full number of these people was unknown, because although their existence could not be entirely denied, they could be entirely ignored. Contact wasn't made with some of the tribes until the seventies, and until 1976 they weren't even counted in Australian census'. Similar sad tales aside (I highly recommend looking through the aborigines node) we come to the source of the movie: Starting in the thirties, and ending in the seventies, hundreds of thousands of half-caste aborigine/anglo children were interned in camps, trained as domestic help, and then given to white Christian families. They would later be encouraged to marry into whiter families. These stolen and assimilated children came to be known as the Stolen Generation.

This is more momentous than it may seem at first glance. Not only were aproximately one in five Aborigine children taken from their parents (see Stolen Generation), but the parents had aproximately one in five children taken from them. A gap was created in the culture of the people, causing ancient oral histories to be lost, and the children to lose all sense of identity. This generation of disenfranchised cultureless youth were in the charge of Mr. Neville, the head of the department responsible for the non-fatal culling. As a result losing their loved ones, suicide and drinking rates rose among both the parents and the children. In general, everyone involved was less happy than they had been.

Doris Pilkington is the Daughter of Molly Craig, the heroine of the book and movie. Molly Craig (at around fourteen) was taken to the Moore River Settlement with her sister Daisy, and her cousin Gracie. After staying there there for only a day, she decided to walk the one thousand fifty miles back to her home of Jigalong with both relations. She then proceeded to do so by following the Rabbit Proof Fence while evading trackers, and generally being simply heroic. Although she lost Gracie to the feds, she managed to bring Daisy and herself safely home.

After having two children years later, Molly Craig went to a hospital for an ailment of some sort. Both of her children were taken to the Moore River Settlement, and were supposed to be returned to her. This was not to be the case however, the government kept young Annabell and Doris to be trained as servants, rather than having them "revert" to their mother's more traditional lifestyle. Molly then stole Annabell and walked back home, leaving Doris behind because she was probably too heavy to carry and to young to walk. "Probably" you say? Yes, probably, she couldn't tell for certain because the window to Doris's dormitory had bars, to prevent mothers or desperately homesick children from going through them.

Years later, after going through the Moore River purification process (designed to keep their native language and culture away from the children, and to condition them to domestic slavery), Doris finally managed to get in touch with her mother. In time she wrote a book about her mother's experiences. Christine Olson then wrote a screenplay based on the book, and fate intervened to make Phillip Nocye the director of the movie.

The movie itself, based on Molly's first journey, is only a representation of the history that it stands on. It was created by a white director, to call forth the tragedy of the past. As such, a personal C! from me goes to Noyce for the excellent special features on the DVD. He is very aware of the ironies that surrounded his situation, and in fact apologizes a bit to much at the end of the commentary option on the DVD. A commentary option, you might ask? Yes sir! It allows you to listen to him and others talk about the making of the movie, his thoughts on the Aborigines' tragic history, Peter Gabriel talking music, and more. There is also relatively long "making of" bonus feature, which has its own superb qualities.

Two extra tidbits: First, I have heard that young Aborigine women have (or have had) a habit of turning ordinary sentences into sentences that sound like questions. This is because they learned the english language through far from ideal circumstances, and they grow accustomed to asking for help with their pronounciation or grammar.

Second, there is contention about the issues involved. It is a prickly subject for the Australian government and people. I just read an essay by the former head of Australian immigration, which attacked the movie (although he didn't say anything relevant, did he personally watch the movie?). To my mind though, most objectors can be compared to holocaust deniers. Guilt is a heavy burden, whether or not you deserve it.
Simply put: be warned that there are other sides to this issue.