Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rabbit-Proof Fence

Rabbit-Proof Fence is the true story of Molly Craig, who, in 1931, at 14, was taken from her mother in Jigalong, a depot on one of the fences that were being constructed across the continent in an attempt to keep marauding rabbits from destroying the western farmlands. Along with her half-sister Daisy, 8, and cousin Gracie Fields, she was taken to the Moore River Native Settlement in Western Australia.
[. . .] The film would show the terrified children sprinting across stony wasteland in a futile attempt to escape the police, distraught mothers wailing in the dust, and an aged granny battering her head with a stone in impotent frustration. It would show the girls in a cage as they are transported by train to their new home and a culture of flogging and solitary confinement for those who failed to appreciate what the white man was doing for them. (Source)
I just finished watching Rabbit-Proof Fence, which was recommended by my Linguistics/Second Language Acquisition professor. She wanted us to look at a) the many ways in which a second language is definitely not taught properly, and b) the ways in which language can be legislated. While I was taking notes on these things, I also spent a large portion of the movie wrestling with whether to feel horrified or uplifted.

On the one hand, it's beyond disturbing that the officials tearing families apart apparently thought they were doing "the right thing". Kenneth Branagh in particular does a brilliant job making me want to shake some sense into him as he questions, "should the coloreds be encouraged to go back to the black, or should they be advanced to white status?" The voiceover at the end is also enough to make one weep.

On the other hand, I believe that the underlying message in the film is also one of endurance and family. The three girls (Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, and Laura Monaghan) beautifully portray the trio who undertake an incredible trek, in an attempt to reunite with their mother. And, as we find out later, one of them actually makes the journey twice in her life.

I highly recommend this movie if you haven't seen it; I'm also adding both of the related books by Doris Pilkington (Molly's daughter) to my reading list.

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