How are the negative effects of discrimination communicated within the film Rabbit-Proof Fence by Phillip Noyce? Which film techniques and examples are important in portraying this?
In this film, Molly and Daisy, two "half-caste" girls of half Aboriginal origin, are forcibly taken from their home along the rabbit-proof fence and transported to a reeducation center in the south.
The film shows the negative effects of discrimination in a number of ways. First, setting the film in 1931 allows Noyce to show the unconscious racism of Neville. He unquestioningly assumes that the white "race" is superior to the Aborigines. His assumption—that assimilating to white culture, even if it means ending up a servant in a white home, is better than being Aboriginal—is jarring to modern audiences who know better. He does not need to be a monster for an audience to resist him. In fact, we focus more on hating his racist ideology than hating him because we know it is the ideology that is evil, not the person.
Furthermore, the film shows Molly and Daisy being wrested from their mother's arms to be taken away. The film thus shows that these are not children who need to be saved from a neglectful or abusive home, but children who are stolen from their families simply because of their race. We see in dramatic form that this practice is traumatic and not helpful.
The reeducation center is essentially an orphanage, where the school attempts to brainwash the girls into accepting the superiority of white culture, and the girls have to endure being told they have no mother. A powerful film technique is used when the Australian nature that the girls encounter as they escape the reeducation center and follow the fence back home is depicted as enchanting and beautiful, in contrast to the rigid, austere school. People help the girls, reinforcing the idea that the discrimination to which they have been subjected is unnatural.
Noyce is not heavy-handed in portraying racism, showing Neville, for example, as clueless rather than evil. Meanwhile, he makes the girls, especially Molly, strong and appealing characters who are easy to side with. Through them, the film shows there is nothing inferior about Aborigines and that the racist desire to change them is wrong. Once we get to know the girls, we learn that Aborigines are fully human.