CFS, follow your heart to the ‘Fence’

Kelly Serrian

After a successful stint in Hollywood, Philip Noyce returns home to discover his roots “down under.” Noyce, the prodigious director of such blockbusters as “Patriot Games,” “The Bone Collector” and “Clear and Present Danger,” makes “Rabbit-Proof Fence,” his first Australian film since 1989.

Following an edict which the Australian government issued in 1931, bi-racial children (those who were typically born to an aboriginal mother and a white father) were unwillingly removed from their homes. These children, known as “the Lost Generation,” were subsequently taken to “settlements,” where they were purportedly assimilated into white culture by being trained as domestic servants. Noyce’s “Rabbit-Proof Fence” tells the evocative, real-life tale of three such children. The film showcases the daring escape of this trio of young girls from one of these settlements. Molly Craig, her younger sister, and their cousin trekked over 1,500 miles of the harsh terrain that composes the Australian countryside in order to return home. Because of her knowledge of a barbed-wire fence erected to prevent rabbits from eating crops, Molly surmised that the girls could travel parallel to the fence, and eventually reach their destination: home. During their nine-week journey, the girls traversed the dangerous environment, whilst sleeping in rabbit holes and sustaining themselves on little food and water. Almost as miraculously, they also succeeded in evading the long arm of the law, and other authorities.

Relationships are a fundamental component of the film, beginning with the heart-wrenching separation between mother and child, and remaining consistent throughout the course of the film, highlighting such “bonds” as that between the girls and the headhunter sent to track them down, as well as with a white woman who provides for them along their journey.

While Kenneth Branagh’s name should steal the show, the natural and emotional performances of the unknown child actors do nothing less than tug at one’s heartstrings as they display many facets of the very essence of humanity. Underscoring the powerful imagery portrayed in this film is the soundtrack performed by Peter Gabriel, which impressively integrates the multidimensional themes, characters, and cultures.

Decades after the girls’ journey, Molly’s story emerged, and instantly secured her place as a symbol of Aborigine resilience in the face of abuse inflicted by Australia’s European settlers. Perhaps a key fact that lends to the subtle power of this film is that the narrative is based on a 1996 book, written by award-winning author, Doris Pilkington, who is also the oldest daughter of Molly.

Interestingly enough, Pilkington’s fate was hauntingly similar to her mother’s, as she too had been captured by authorities and torn from her home. It was only after a reunion that ended their 20-year separation that Doris was able to memorialize Molly’s experiences. As incredible as it may seem, Pilkington was actually fortunate, in that many of the “Lost Generation” have never been reunited with their families. Such was the unfortunate case of Annabelle, Molly’s second daughter, with whom there was never a reunion. Somewhat distressingly, this may remain the fate of many, as the Australian government refuses to formally apologize for their policy, fearing the legal ramifications that may accompany such a public act of responsibility and atonement. Molly, the “Rabbit-Proof” heroine, died last month in her hometown at the age of 87.

“Rabbit-Proof Fence” will be shown Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m. and Mon., Feb. 16th at 7 p.m. General admission is $4, and students with I.D. can purchase tickets for $3. There will be a lecture Monday evening, featuring “Walkabout to Freedom” by Dr. Cynthia Glover. For more information, call the communication department at x9-4750, on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or consult the CFS web page: