Australian Screen

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Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

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clip The wrong fence education content clip 1, 2, 3

Original classification rating: PG. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

Mr Neville (Kenneth Branagh) tells the police inspector (Roy Billing) that the three escaped girls must be following the rabbit-proof fence north, to their home. He devises a plan to catch them, sending police troopers down the fence from the north, and the tracker Moodoo (David Gulpilil) up from the south. In the desert, Molly (Everlyn Sampi) carries little Daisy (Tianna Sansbury) on her back. They find food with a fence workman (Ken Radley), who tells them they’re on the Number 2 fence. Until this moment, Molly hasn’t known there was more than one. Gracie (Laura Monaghan) realises immediately they are on the wrong fence. They have come west when they want to go north. The workman sends them in the right direction, but their detour has saved them from getting caught.

Curator’s notes

The movie uses all sorts of techniques to communicate the roughness of the country, and the heat and dryness, including very low and high angles, tilted horizons, shots aimed directly at the sun – all of which are evident in this clip. Sound is equally important in giving us the texture of the rocky ground, as when the car rumbles past loudly. Even the interior shots in Mr Neville’s office are shot at odd angles, to give a sense of disorder. He has accurate maps and the girls don’t, but even so, his men miss the girls on the fence because the country is far more deceptive than it appears on a map.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip depicts the children trying to return home. It opens with Mr Neville (Kenneth Branagh) in his office pointing to a map and telling a policeman the plan to capture the escaped children by sending one man from the north and another from the south along the rabbit-proof fence. Images of an Indigenous tracker on horseback and a car near the fence are juxtaposed with shots of the girls. Molly (Everlyn Sampi) carries little Daisy on her back. Although fearful, they trust a fence workman who tells them it was the wrong fence and shows them how to go home.

Educational value points

  • This clip emphasises Molly’s courage and leadership and the children’s achievement in staying together and avoiding capture. When Daisy says she can’t go on Molly carries her. Close-ups of Molly’s face convey her wariness with the workman and the dialogue suggests the girls are cautious in what they say. However, Molly decides they can trust the workman, and his advice, combined with their earlier mistake, helps them to escape capture.
  • This clip dramatises the children’s achievement in surviving in a harsh and unknown land and avoiding capture. The car rumbles noisily over rough ground, and heat and dryness are communicated through the use of tilted horizons and shots aimed directly at the sun. Little Daisy, unable to continue walking, indicates their vulnerability in this challenging territory.
  • The children’s endeavours to return home are contrasted with scenes showing the resources available to Mr Neville to capture them. With maps, police troopers and the tracker, he can organise an effective hunt. ‘We can’t miss them,’ he says. However, even the interior shots in Mr Neville’s office are shot at odd angles suggesting that the hunt is not so clear. The land depicted is much more challenging than the maps indicate.
  • The clip presents the rabbit-proof fence as central motif and symbol of home and security. The children and their pursuers are depicted following a fence. The workman’s explanation about the three rabbit-proof fences conveys the difficulty of the children’s position as they knew of only one fence, but Molly relies upon the north fence as their way home. These fences were constructed to prevent the spread of rabbits from the eastern states.
  • This clip depicts the complex role of Indigenous trackers. Moodoo, played by David Gulpilil (1953–), works for Mr Neville and pursues the children. The job of a tracker utilised traditional skills, but the role could mean using these skills against Indigenous people so sometimes trackers were deliberately unsuccessful. It is a non-Indigenous workman who clearly helps the children, indicating also the complexity of Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationships.

In a darkened room, we see Mr Neville and the police inspector meeting.
Mr Neville They’re on the fence. They’re following the rabbit-proof fence.
Inspector Right.
Mr Neville Just because people use Neolithic tools, Inspector, does not mean they have Neolithic minds. This makes our task very much easier. Look, there’s a branch off here to the west, north of Yalgoo. Now, you put your man out here on the fence, north of this junction. He can start to come down it to meet them. I’ll have Moodoo come up from the south behind them. We can’t miss them.

We see a police officer in a car and another on horseback travelling in opposite directions alongside the fence, looking for the girls.

The girls are walking alongside the rabbit-proof fence in the heat of the day.
Gracie Where’s Daisy?
Molly Wait here.

Daisy is back some way, sitting forlornly.
Daisy My legs, Molly. They hurt. I can’t walk.
Molly I’ll carry you only once, alright? Come on. Come on.

The police continue their pursuit from both directions.

Molly Don’t think I’m carrying you all the way.
Daisy Camp, Molly!
They’ve come upon a fence worker’s camp.
Man Company…

The girls are sitting at his campfire, eating his food.
Man Where you girls headed? You goin’ to Mulawa? You got family there?
Molly Where Mulawa?
Man Mulawa? West. The way you’re headed along the number 2 fence.
Gracie You got two rabbit-proof fence?
Man My oath. We got three of ‘em.
Gracie We on the wrong fence.
Molly Where the north fence?
Man North fence? Back that way, where you come from. You can cut across. I’ll show you.

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