Depending on your mood, this is a delicious little irony or a spectacular instance of hypocrisy concerning movie maker Phillip Noyce whose filmic fabrication, Rabbit-Proof Fence, won accolades from the intellectual left but indifference from the cinema-going public.
Thanks to Angela Bell (who has moved back to her original blogger home) for the link.
When Phillip Noyce recruited the three girls who were to star in his film, he chose them from outback communities in Western Australia. He found the eldest, Everlyn Sampi, who was to play fourteen-year-old Molly in the film, living with her mother at Broome on the north-west coast. A striking number of parallels emerged between the young actress and the character she played. Both had white fathers who had left their mothers. Neither was educated. Molly had attracted the attention of the authorities because of reports she was “running wild with the whites” and was being abused by the full-blood members of her tribe. Everlyn had reached puberty but could not read or write, was regularly truant from school, and Noyce himself became worried about her return to Broome and the life she would lead after the film was made. During rehearsals, Everlyn emulated her character and ran away twice. She was found in a telephone booth trying to book a ticket back to Broome. She was caught and returned to Noyce, who told a journalist her behavior “makes you want to protect her, adopt her.”
Noyce decided to do just that. With her mother’s consent, he arranged for her to enter a boarding school near Perth. But again, just like Molly, she hated it and demanded to be flown home. Last year a television reporter, James Thomas, confronted Noyce with the parallels between his own actions and those of his film’s chief villain, the Aboriginal protector Neville.
Thomas: Picture this: a white man enters a remote Aboriginal community with the best intentions, takes three girls out of their community and promises them fame and fortune. Does it sound familiar?
Thomas: Are you aware of the irony that exists in what you are doing with this film and the actual topic of the film itself?
Noyce: Well, I suppose in one way you could say that in a different context, in a different time, I’m A. O. Neville promising these young Aboriginal children a better life, asking them to do things that are against their instincts, perhaps because it’s for their own good. But we do live in a slightly different world.
While we obviously do live in a different world, Noyce himself succumbed to an instinct that is as old as the British settlement of Australia: the desire to offer Aboriginal people the benefits of civilized life and to educate their children in the ways of the modern world.