* Rabbit-Proof Fence tells the true story of three Aboriginal girls who are forcibly removed from their families. Set in 1931, their removal was part of an official Australian government policy which removed ‘half caste’ children from their parents and placed them within institutions that trained these children to become domestic servants. The story centres on the three girls escape from the Moore River Settlement (the institution in which they are placed) and their incredible 1,500 mile journey home following the rabbit-proof fence. * We can also consider how the generic structure of the Rabbit-Proof Fence affects the meaning. The use of Molly’s voice-over at the beginning of a film is a recurrent pattern in film making and occurs because of audience preference and the success of particular patterns of story telling. These patterns also reflect an audience’s cultural background. Many Australian feature films have for example adopted a documentary style narration or include a family member who supports the telling of the story. The inclusion of a voice over also reflects the fact that story telling is traditionally an oral activity in Aboriginal culture.
* Rabbit-Proof Fence is quite comprehensible without a knowledge of Australian life and culture. Factors such as gender, ethnic background and economic status cut across the various levels and forms of education. A cultural and ideological approach to a film text however exposes assumptions about the way we live our lives. This film can therefore be read on one level as an exciting adventure story in which three innocent children make a daring escape from their captors. On a second level, a social and cultural study of the film will draw the viewer to consider what is meant by the Stolen Generation and consider the thinking behind official government policy of the period.
* The first frame is a close up shot of Molly with her mother Maude. They are both looking upwards (watching the Spirit Bird which is out of shot). Early in the film the viewer is therefore positioned to see the spiritual nature of Aboriginal culture. The Spirit Bird later in the film becomes central to the girls’ ability to cross the desert. It acts as a spiritual guide, providing strength to endure, survive and succeed.
* Archive footage is used to create authenticity in the construction of the setting (the city of Perth in Western Australia). The original black and white film has been coloured in a laboratory to add to the realism of the scene. Written codes are also applied to this frame. Frame two is a close up shot of a pen nib writing the word “Molly” on a card. Frame three juxtaposed with frame two is a low angle medium close up as Neville looks up from the card. The angle gives him power and authority. * The film ends (as it began) with the use of a documentary style narration. After witnessing the intense emotional impact of the girls return to Jigalong we hear directly from the real Molly and Daisy (as they are today : two old ladies reflecting back on their painful true story). The montage of shots all include sub-titles as Molly speaks in dialect. The montage begins in Mr. Neville’s office and moves from a silhouette shot of Molly, Daisy, Frinda and Maude from the film to a series of aerial landscape shots reflecting the immensity of their journey along the rabbit-proof fence. The montage concludes and the film ends with final frames of the real Molly and Daisy walking in mid-shot and concluding that they will never return to “that place.”