Belonging is a way of having acceptance, security, fulfilment and a connection in association to people, places, groups, communities, and the world itself. There are different notions of belonging, however, they are recognising in cultural, historical, personal and social contexts. New experiences and changes in relationships affect our sense of belonging, in which explored through family relationships, connections with land, and into a new society world. These themes can be seen in Alice Pung’s Asian-Australian memoir ‘Unpolished Gem’ and the film ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ directed by Philip Noyce. Another related film ‘The Blind Side’ written and directed by John Lee Hancock, which also explores the same concept of belonging. The novel ‘Unpolished Gem’ and two films ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ and ‘The Blind Side’ are stories of telling ones journey to find a sense of belonging. The main character Alice Pung in Unpolished Gem narrates her childhood and adolescence through the use of anecdotes, reflections and re-told memories.
Just as Alice Pung, three young half-caste Aboriginal girls, Molly, Daisy and Gracie explore the difficulties, challenges experienced and success on their journey across the vast and lonely Australian Outback. And the main character Michael Oher in the film ‘The Blind Side’ also explores the difficulties and challenges in life as he grows up experiencing new things into a new society. To begin with, the sense of belonging arises from a family Relationship. Alice Pung recounts a series of memories from her childhood and adolescence as she grows up Asian-Australian straddling two worlds and about her parents and extended family, who once lived in Cambodia but the harsh treatments they’ve been experience in Cambodia forced them to migrate to Australia. Alice recounted her memories in first person, ‘We begin our story in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, in a market swarming with fat pigs and thin people’. This shows that it is the author’s personal story/journey.
Through these retellings of remembered conversations between Alice and her paternal grandmother, Alice uses Vivid writing descriptions of her childhood feelings and imagination. Alice describes the series of emotions she went through as she was really shocked when she found out that her grandmother had stroke and passed away. As the quote says, ‘My grandmother was not meant to die. She meant to be part of me forever, so that I would always know that there was a life before me, and a life after me. My grandmother and her stories. What would I do without them? She asserted my existence before I knew I had one. Soon after the death, Alice became depressed and had a breakdown. Alice’s grandmother is the whom she is closest at her young age. Her relationship with her grandmother seemed to give her a life focus and direction, but now sore. The purpose of using vivid is to entice us into her painful experiences and happiness.
Similarly, in the film ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ by Philip Noyce explores the same concept of sense of belonging to a family relationship through the uses of plot and camera shots. Camera shots represent the theme of family bonds when there is a close up shot of a mother Maude and daughter Molly looking up to the Spirit Bird. This shows both the physical and emotional closeness of the two, as well as the strong relationship they have with the land. One of the most literal ways family relationship is shown in the film, is in the scene when the policeman Riggs arrived, where the three young half-caste girls, Molly, Gracie and Daisy are being taken away from their mother. The director uses a tracking shot to follow the girl’s flight from the policeman Riggs. This technique makes the viewer feel empathy for the girls, as their panic is obvious to even the least sympathetic viewer. Their mother is desperately fighting for her grasp over the girls, and we can really see the emotional she portrays both physically, and mentally.
Furthermore, a sense of belonging arises from a connection with land in the film “Rabbit-Proof Fence” which presents a strong sense of Aboriginal identity and the three young girls’ connection with land through the spirit bird and the Rabbit Proof Fence to their way back home. This is evident in the scenes where it shows the motifs of the “Spirit Bird” and how it gives Molly inspiration, when she sees it her dreams when at Moore River Settlement, which made her want to run away back home. This is such a symbolic connection between her and her home land. Also near the end of the long journey where they are struggling to get home, a long shot of girls collapsed on ground juxtaposed with close up of their mother’s concerned face, with the sound of an Aboriginal chant- sense of belonging-willing the girls home. And an extreme close up of Molly’s eyes slowly open as she sees the Spirit Bird fly over her, which gives her the determination to keep going to get home to her family, and not to give up. Culture plays an important role for the indigenous people, and their love and care for their land. Lastly, a sense of belonging also arises from a new society world.
In a novel Unpolished Gem, Alice reveals the anxiety of her mother experiencing. Alice’s mother finds the adjustments in her new life difficult to bear. She falls into depression seeing as she does not have ability to work in Australia because she does not know the ‘English’. Other reason as why she is in depressed state because she struggles to communicate with her family and other people. Alice’s mother confesses all her troubles in work to Alice. She states that her unfair treatment at work is causing her to crumble. “I can’t wok there any longer! I can’t work at home I cant work anywhere.” Showing her confidence to be very low, lack self-esteem and self-worth. This is an evident that the barrier of cultural background preventing Alice’s mother to belong. Unpolished Gem is a small peek into the complex world of people who have to adapt. Not just to the country they have come to but to their own selves as they change over time. Alice’s mother is similar to the character of Michael Oher in the film ‘The Blind Side’ as who initially showed uneasiness in moving into a new world. Every time he is placed in a new home, he runs away. This shows early-signs of response towards not belonging.
His short story entitled ‘White Walls’ is an evidenced of his emotional detachment towards the school. He recounts his first-impression towards the school and describes it as ‘Everything I see is White’. This adjective is an evidence of Michael Oher’s struggle from feeling a sense of belonging which reveals his anxiety and discomfort. The voiceover emphasizes his character while he confesses his struggle and difficulties in adjusting into a new environment.` Therefore, belonging is an instinctive need of every living organism and a process affected by an individual’s perspective influenced by one’ context. In all of these texts, we can see that belonging is a fundamental and important aspect of life inevitably intertwined with notions of acceptance, identity, understanding and relationships. Differences in terms of religion, value, opinion, appearance, race, gender to name a few is what makes us unique individuals and assist’s us in determining who we really want to be and where we really want to belong.