< It is a long time since Australian director Noyce made a film outside America,
£ where he is best known for directing Hollywood action blockbusters such as
< Clear and Present Danger (1994) and Patriot Games (1992). So what exactly attracted Noyce at this point in his career to make the low-budget film Rabbit-Proof Fence? Noyce claims he was initially attracted to what he calls the film's 'universal elements' as a story of escape.3 This revelation takes on deeper significance when we learn that Noyce's decision to produce and direct Rabbit-Proof Fence was precipitated by a personal crisis. As he tells it, he was in New York working with the actor Harrison Ford on the storyline of the proposed adaptation of Tom Clancy's novel The Sum of All Fears. Ford was uncertain about being involved. Every other day Noyce would go up town to Ford's apartment on Central Park West and present him with new improved versions of the storyline. After ten days, Ford was still unhappy and wanted to change the ending completely. So Noyce called the head of Paramount studios who told him he should make all the changes Ford requested because the film already had a release date and time was running out. At that point Noyce claims he exploded. Or, as he puts it in one interview:
I suddenly thought, I'm not really making a film, I'm making sausages and I felt like a sausage maker .. . Almost on the spur of the moment I decided 'Fuck this, I've spent enough time as a migrant worker in this Hollywood system. It's time to make something for myself and something that I'm more connected to.'4
Noyce's decision to make this film about a young girl's determination to return home after being forcibly taken from her Aboriginal mother and community is also then his own act of 'returning home'. Indeed, the film provided an opportunity for Noyce to overcome the peculiar alienation of the expatriate: the experience of feeling like an outsider in a host country -'a migrant worker in Hollywood' - and, at the same time, an outsider at home. As Noyce puts it, 'About four years ago ... I had reached the stage where I thought I would no longer be able to return to Australia and make films, because every time I came back to Australia I felt more and more of 0 an outsider, cut off from the issues, from Australian preoccupations.'5 ,
Surveying popular and critical reviews of Rabbit-Proof Fence, we find t
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