History in Films: Rabbit Proof Fence

Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) recounts the true story of three Aborigine girls from western Australia in the 1930s who were abducted by government officials and brought to the Moore River Settlement to become Anglicized.

Kenneth Branagh portrays A.O. Neville nicknamed “The Devil” who was the Chief Protector of the Aborigines during a twenty-five year period in the first half of the twentieth century.

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Here’s a picture of the real Molly and Gracie who appear at the end of the film. It’s what lends itself the authenticity of the story to be “true”.

This score by Peter Gabriel won him a Grammy nomination. I like the haunting chants of the Aborigines.

But, a common problem occurs when making a historical film. Screenplays and dramatic license allows the blending of opinions to create a bias and empathy.

In this film, Mr. Neville’s reasons for removing the girls from their natural habitat was to breed out the dark blood and fill with white blood. Mr. Neville is the heartless voice of Eugenics and ethnic cleansing philosophy. But opponents of this dark painting of Neville object to the one-sided bias of the situation and feel it should be labeled as historical fiction.

In an article by Keith Windschuttle, he lists ten inaccuracies with the story-line of the film. I’ve linked the article for you if you want to read more about it.

http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/history-wars/2010/05/holes-in-the-rabbit-proof-fence

I think it is best to think of the film as a remarkable account of the human spirit and courage. It’s an amazing story. The girls did cross The Outback–not once but twice. The “Stolen Generation” was a crime against the Aborigines no matter what the true intentions of Mr. Neville and a story everyone should know. I’ve never had a problem taking films with a grain of salt. I look for the message and not the pedantic details.

Perhaps that’s wrong! What do you think? Have you seen it?

19 thoughts on “History in Films: Rabbit Proof Fence

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  1. I had never even heard of this one Cindy. Sounds like it’s a heart-wrenching account of what the the Aborigine girls. It’s unbelievable that they crossed the outback twice!! Have you seen The Way Back? That’s quite an incredible based-on-a-true-story tale of survival as well, where Siberian gulag escapees walked 4000 miles!!

  2. I’ve heard of this film and do wish to see it. Certainly, the situation described does smack of the familiar — the relocation of native peoples in the U.S. to reservations for one (“…for their own good.”, went the saying). And I’m sure the best of intentions could be cited by supporters, less so by those who were actually moved. I recall vividly reading a number historical books, Hampton Sides’ BLOOD AND THUNDER one of the most recent, on the what happened to many in such relocations. In that, the Navajos proved another study of the human spirit overcoming adversity.

    I’ve loaded this into my Netflix queue because of your post, Cindy. Many thanks.

    1. How wonderful. Yes the parallel is the same. My ex-daughter-in-law is Navajo and has told me stories about her parents being pulled from the Reservation here in AZ for a proper education. I have always loved Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Perhaps you saw the HBO award winner which came out a few years back? That’s a great one, there. Cheers, Michael 🙂

  3. A good movie. Tragic what was done.

    Curiously, I had recently watched another film with Aboriginal actors called the Sapphires. A totally different kind of movie than Rabbit Proof Fence – but very enjoyable.

    1. Thanks Mr. Gray for your thoughts. There’s always an agenda. I try to be on the lookout that and take films that claim to be “based on a true story” with a grain of salt. If the person(s) described are there to validate the work, that helps. It helped seeing Molly and Gracie at the end of the film, in their 80s at the end. Another film that comes to mind is ‘The Railway Man’ with Kidman and Firth. I haven’t seen it, but the WWII film looks intriguing and one I need to watch for this series.

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