Presentation on theme: "The Rabbit-Proof Fence is the story of three girls from western Australia, who in 1931 were taken from their community of Jigalong to the Moore River."— Presentation transcript:
The Rabbit-Proof Fence is the story of three girls from western Australia, who in 1931 were taken from their community of Jigalong to the Moore River Native Settlement as part of the policy of removing so-called "half-caste" children.
Rabbit-Proof Fence is the first feature film to explicitly treat the subject of what have become known as the Stolen Generations.
After a short period at Moore River the three girls, Molly, Daisy, and Gracie, escaped from the settlement and walked some 1600km home, much of the way along the rabbit-proof fence that runs from the northern to the southern coast of Western Australia.
Doris Pilkington-Garimara, an historian and the daughter of Molly (the oldest of the three girls), published an account of the journey as Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence in 1996. Pilkington-Garimara's account combined both the archival record and the oral record which she derived mainly from her Aunty Daisy.
Pilkington-Garimara's story was optioned by South Australian documentary film-maker Christine Olsen, who adapted the narrative to write her first screen-play.
She called expatriate Australian film-maker Phillip Noyce, critically acclaimed for Australian films such as Back Roads, Dead Calm and Heat Wave, but more recently known as the director of the blockbuster Hollywood Tom Clancy-adaptations Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger.
Noyce was initially cool on the script but when he could not secure Harrison Ford for the next Tom Clancy film, Noyce decided to proceed.
In her foreword to the screenplay, Christine Olsen writes that her biggest challenge was trying to discover why the story of Molly, Daisy and Gracie "moved her" so much and just as importantly for Olsen, why Molly's story was also her own story. She writes:
At first it seemed that this was a classic fairytale: three children stolen away by a wicked witch and taken to her house. In this house everyone has been put under a spell of forgetfulness.
The longer the children are there the more strongly the spell works on them. The three sisters escape and are pursued by the vengeful, angry witch every inch of the way. They must use all their cunning to evade her and get back home.
But then I thought, "No, this is a war story. The country has been invaded and taken over. Now, even deep in the hinterland, the invaders are reaching out and taking away the children.
They are placed in camps from which only three escape. To get back home they must cross through enemy- occupied territory never knowing who their friends are, who is out to get them.
The “war story” is registered in details such as the military great coats the girls wear for part of the film, and the incorporation of barbed wire into the lettering of the title of the film, which in turn picks up on the close-ups of the fence that recur throughout the film.
“Eventually,” Olsen writes, “I came to realize that my story/Molly's story was most importantly a story about home.”
Empathy is indeed the key premise of a film such as Rabbit-Proof Fence. Most people who see the film have not had the direct experience of being forcibly removed from their parents or having their children forcibly removed from them.
In the place of this, Rabbit-Proof Fence, like other films, asks its audience to make that imaginative leap.
Noyce describes his experience of reading the script as follows: I was overwhelmed by the story. Emotionally overwhelmed. I really strongly identified with the three girls, Molly, Daisy, and Gracie.
It was just because they were young children who were powerless and had no redress and seemingly no escape from their destiny. And who, after an almighty effort, triumph. I found myself on their side, in their shoes, massively identifying with them, very soon into the story.
Like screenwriter Olsen, who explained that she had to understand how Molly's story was also her story, Noyce says that his threshold task as a director— the task he needed to accomplish before he could produce the film—was to achieve a form of empathy in which he could feel himself in "the shoes" of the girls.
Among several potential ironies is the fact that for most of the film the girls do not wear shoes.
Pilkington-Garimara was employed as a consultant by the film-makers. By her own account, she was quite active in this role, recasting parts of Olsen's script that Pilkington_Garimara regarded as violating cultural taboos. Pilkington-Garimara also explained that Noyce incorporated her suggestions regarding the way film concludes.
The film was first screened at Jigalong, where it played on a specially-built screen in the local schoolyard. The screening was attended by members of the cast and crew, including Pilkington-Garimara and Noyce, but also by Molly and Daisy.
Pilkington-Garimara relates that the film, once shown, had an important impact on the community of Jigalong, sparking a minor tourism boom in which people have wanted to see and touch "the fence."
The community school also staged its own theatrical adaptation of the movie.
Chris Doyle's desaturated (bleached out) color cinematography has a dominating effect on the sensorium, and the film subsists on remarkably few words. He also uses extreme long shots extensively throughout the film. Part of the visuality of Rabbit-Proof Fence is an emphasis on icons, such as the fence itself, but also the wedge-tail eagle which is Molly's totem in the film.
Rabbit-Proof Fence is profoundly interested in the aural, and the film draws much of its affective power from Peter Gabriel's soundtrack, Long Walk Home.