The film Rabbit Proof Fence is reminiscent of a war story as the country has been invaded and taken over. The invaders are taking away the children and placing them in camps. Only three manage to escape on their epic journey home they must cross through enemy occupied territory, never knowing friend from foe.
The movie Rabbit Proof Fence and the book The Stolen Children: their stories edited by Carmel Bird aims to impose its values and attitudes on the responder, which compels the viewer to adopt this perspective, thus leading to a change. Both these texts use the language of empathy to impose their perspectives on their audience. This is effectively achieved through the use of a visual and oral medium as it allows the director to use empathetic language thus allowing the audience to enhance the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings. There are many techniques used to enable the audience to embrace this perspective.
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Phillip Noyce, director of Rabbit Proof Fence not only portrays the colonial setting of the time but also treats the story with respect and understanding of the cultural protocols that are required. The Film is authentic as it is based on a true story. The authenticity of the film can be proven as it has been recorded in the local press as well as in the archives of the department of Native affairs. Furthermore Molly and Daisy are still alive and footage of them is shown at the end of the film. This footage gives the film a sense of reality. The director Phillip Noyce ensured that the film was culturally appropriated, by employing Pilkington Garimara, Molly’s daughter who is also the author of Following the Rabbit Proof Fence, which the movie is based on. Molly can speak from personal experience, as she was part of the stolen generation. Phillip Noyce uses the universal language of emotions to change peoples perspectives of the stolen generation. This is achieved not just domestically but internationally.
The audience becomes emotionally overwhelmed during the children’s epic journey home. The audience are able to strongly identify themselves with the three girls due to the fact that they are young, innocent and powerless. The audience can easily connect with the girls for we have all been children. The viewer soon finds themselves on the children’s side, in their shoes and identifying with them, the viewer takes on the perspective of the stolen generation.
Carmel Bird has used a written text that contains a report of separate oral accounts of the indigenous peoples past she seeks to detail the differing situations and outcomes of these people. The film Rabbit Proof Fence stands as one story that represents them all. The distinct importance of the individual voices in The Stolen Children is replaced in the film by an intense visual. This visual representation emphasised through the use of symbols, such as the fence and the eagle, which symbolises Molly’s freedom. Rabbit Proof Fence stands as a cinematic analogue of Carmel Bird’s Stolen children.
The director uses film techniques to manipulate the audience’s perception to his liking. During the emotionally charged scene where a local policeman tears the girls from their mother’s arms, Phillip Noyce uses ground level camera angles that keep up with the action, furthernore emersing the audience in the traumatic action. Another film technique used is the first person film technique that has the effect of portraying the events of the stolen generations as if they were not witnessed out side the view of history, thus accurately capturing the brutality of government policy towards the indigenous population.
Another technique is the use of music to create the mood and atmosphere. Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack Long Walk Home draws power to the scenes. Gabriel has successfully blended traditional aboriginal instruments such as the didgeridoo with the modern instruments to withdraw dramatic emotion.
Molly’s perspective of the camp “I hate this place, makes me sick” drives her to take her siblings and commence a 1600 kilometre long journey back home, all they had to guide them was the rabbit proof fence a 1800 mile long landmark that bisects Western Australia from north to south. Ironically the same people who wanted to keep them from home had built the fence that guided them home. The decisive moment in the chase that structures Rabbit Proof Fence is the confusion between two rabbit proof fences. The girls have unwillingly found themselves on the wrong fence this mistake miraculously saved them from being recaptured by Mr Neville. The Rabbit Proof Fence is used as a device to enact the defeat of the unalterable linear of aboriginal people, over the attempt at systematic genocide. Thus drawing a parallel between Aboriginal liberation and incarceration.
A.O. Neville the protector of aborigines represents the opposing perspective of the government; he is portrayed as a cold but ‘rational’ character that believes in his cause. A British actor plays this character in order to highlight that the racist perspectives are remnants from the British Colonial era. Neville administrates the governments “assimilation” program that’s aim was to separate half-cast aboriginal children from their families and culture to then convert them to Christianity and domesticate them. The perspective of the white people at the time was that by integrating them into the white society and breeding them out they would be saved from their own “primitive savagery”.
“By the third generation the aboriginal has simply been breed out“
“in spite of himself the native must be helped”
“The problem of half cast is not simply going to go away. If it is not dealt with now it will fester for years to come. These children are that problem.”
These quotes provide sufficient evidence that the forced removal policies were an attempt at systematic genocide.
The loss of identity. culture and family that is so profoundly emphasised in the voices section of The Stolen Children is also seen in Rabbit Proof Fence. The mission is where the indigenous people are stripped of their linear; this is depicted in several ways. They are not allowed to speak their own language this lead to loss of language culture. The longer you seem to be at the mission the more of your culture you forget.
“They have no mothers, no body have got any mothers.”
This quote creates a visual image of daughter cut off from connection with mother. This imagery is also use on the front cover off Carmel Bird’s text. In the introduction she talks of a severing from the umbilical cord.
This is a powerful movie that strikes at the heart of Australian history and its current values. Furthermore is has effectively changed the perspective of the viewer and internationally informed many of the suffering of the stolen generations. The movie has also brought up the issue of a national apology.
“Something needs to jolt our political leaders into action on Aboriginal reconciliation. Hopefully this movie proves to e the catalyst.” John Hewson. former national Liberal leader.
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