Director thanks winning film's detractors

by Gary Tippet
The Age: 9th December 2002

Phil Noyce has a couple of choice Australian words for all those right-wing revisionists who scorned and doubted his stolen generation film Rabbit-Proof Fence. They are ta, goodonya and thanks very much.

``They ought to be given an award of their own," the director said yesterday after his film won the Australian Film Industry prize for best feature film.

Noyce, who last week was named film director of the year in the United States, was not being magnanimous so much as grateful. ``Thank goodness for the nay-sayers," he said, grinning. ``I hope this provokes them to come out and attack it again."

The critics, who savaged Rabbit-Proof Fence, claiming it was misleading, exaggerated and based on what they call the ``myth" of the stolen generation, had provided bucketloads of free publicity, he said.

``I think if you tell someone not to see something, you immediately pique their interest."

Noyce said the film, about three Aboriginal girls forcibly taken from their families in 1931, was probably the most important story he had worked on since beginning his film career with Backroads in 1977.

On Saturday, while helping accept the AFI award, Doris Pilkington, who wrote of her mother's experiences in the book Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, issued a plea to Prime Minister John Howard to say sorry to the stolen generations.

``I would like him to go to Jigalong and sit down with my mother on the ground and say sorry in our traditional way," she said. ``Sit down on the ground and let his tears mingle with my mother's and tell her softly, `Molly, I'm sorry the government took your daughter away and you will never ever see her again'."

Rabbit-Proof Fence was one of several indigenous-themed films to garner major prizes at the awards. Ivan Sen was named best director for Beneath Clouds; David Gulpilil won best actor for his part in The Tracker and Australian Rules won best adapted screenplay.