Rabbit-Proof Fence (PG)

Review by Jack Foley

AT THE turn of the 20th Century, white Australians, determined to prevent an ‘unwanted third race’ of ‘half-caste’ Aborigine children, set up a series of detention centres designed to prevent the mixed race children from contaminating the rest of Australian society.

Orders were also given that Aborigine children should be forcibly removed from their families as part of a racist policy which led to them being tagged as the ‘stolen generations’.

Director Phillip Noyce (the man behind Dead Calm and Clear and Present Danger) has taken these facts and delivered a moving story about racial prejudice and triumph against the odds, as three girls escape from one such centre and walk 1,500 miles to find their mothers.

The girls in question - Molly (Everlyn Sampi), Daisy (Tianna Sansbury) and Gracie (Laura Monaghan) - follow a rabbit-proof fence that stretches across the Outback to guide them in their path, all the while aware that the head of the Moore River Native Settlement, from which they escaped, AO Neville (Kenneth Branagh), is intent on recapturing them.

Noyce’s movie is a hugely emotional and richly satisfying affair, which refrains from becoming too political or overly preachy. The director shys away from making his movie a heavy-handed rant against the authorities, opting instead to focus on the plight of the three girls and the obstacles they were forced to overcome in Australia’s unforgiving Outback in order to reach their mothers.

Without exception, the cast is superb, while Noyce has rightly been praised for the visual style he lends proceedings. As many critics have been forced to confess, he is a director who has long been under-rated and his work, here, has to rate among his very best.