For my first class of Global Cinema Studies, we did a screening on the award-winning movie Rabbit Proof Fence (2002). For some, it was their first encounter with the movie, but for me, that movie in particular already has a certain spot in my memory.
Years back, I did a larger project on the Aboriginals and included the movie in my studies. The project was a high school project, and although I haven’t watched it since, I still have the story line embedded in my mind.
Rabbit Proof Fence takes place in Australia in 1931. A time where the government parted thousands of Aborinal families, by taken away half-cast children from their mothers and fathers, to simply “save them from themselves”. The children were sent to different camps where they would learn the skills and etiquette of “the white”. It was for sure an act of racism and lack of knowledge, and many children tried to escape and go back to their families. Only a few succeeded.
The movie is based on the book Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence, a true story about three Aboriginal girls who attempt to escape the Moore River camp, in order to find their way back to their mothers. Two of them make it, but the journey is rough and the girls are challenged on their skills to survive.
Years ago, when I watched the movie for the first time, I wasn’t studying cinematic production as I am now, so I was not paying attention to the same things as I did this time. But I could understand why the movie won so many awards, and was nominated for even more.
The storyline itself is very dramatic and the actors do a great job, making it seem as authentic as possible, and the cinematography of the movie provides great examples of different ways to utilize a camera. By using different angles (frogs’ and birds’ view) the power of “the white” is symbolized e.g. when Mr. Neville is talking to Molly in Moore River, as well as the nurses/sisters in the camp. Using camera angles to demonstrate power might be one of the most prevalent “tricks” in this movie.
Theme-wise, the movie is about two different types of power. The power of the state and the power of the human individual, which again justifies the great use of camera angles. The girls, and especially Molly show great strength in their bravery and perseverance. While Mr. Neville only shows strength by his power given by law. For what, he actually appears more unknown and maybe even frightened by these native Aboriginals.
Through the movie, we only once see the girls and Mr. Neville and his men together. At Moore River, when he is there to inspect. But other than that, the characters are kept separate. Mr. Neville himself only gives out orders, about something he has little knowledge about, an issue that relates to the 21st century as well, when you look at world conflicts and wars. In many cases, the people who sit on the power, have never actually been out in the field, but they have for sure read about it, watched television or in another way gained what they think is adequate information. I didn’t think about this separation the first time I watched Rabbit Proof Fence, but this time, I payed attention