Actors: Chris O’Dowd
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Musical
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Synopsis: In 1968, four smart, gutsy young Australian Aboriginal women become unlikely stars by singing for the U.S Troops in Vietnam. With the help of an R&B loving Irish musician, Dave Lovelace, they transform themselves into a sizzling soul act and set out to make a name for themselves hundreds of miles from home. Inspired by a true story, The Sapphires is a celebration of music, family and self-discovery.
You can’t just ask someone why they’re not black. But you can, however, ask them to sound more black. Which is one of the first problems facing The Sapphires, a 60’s aboriginal girl group born down under.
The Sapphires is the true story of a remarkable group of women who managed to put together a girl group and travel to Vietnam. Co-written by one of the sons of the real-life singers and directed by Wayne Blair, this movie packs a punch and a amazingly good soundtrack.
The movie opens up with two stark facts. 1. Until 1967 Aborigines in Australia were not considered humans by the government and 2. The government had the authority to remove the light-skinned native children from their families to make them a part of white community.
We meet the future Sapphires as children, about to put on a show for their families. Halfway through, however, the light-skinned cousin is taken away to become a part of the stolen generation. It’s a powerful, painful beginning.
A decade later, the three sisters – Gail (Deborah Mailman) Julie (Jessica Mauboy) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) decide to enter a singing competition. Braving the racism of the croud, they sing an American country western song. The accompanist (Chris O’Dowd) is a washed-up mess who nevertheless recognizes their potential and helps them form The Sapphires. They reconnect with their stolen cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens), switch from country to Motown and pass the audition to go perform for the US troops in Vietnam.
Once there however, it’s not an easy road for any of them. A girl group with four members means a lot of opportunity for romance, drama and power struggles. Luckily, the Sapphires manages to avoid falling into a Behind the Music hole by matching fabulous 60’s soul songs to the real life drama happening off stage and on. It’s a hard journey for them, dealing with the valor of the GI’s, the still present racism, and the death and horrors happening around them.
The Sapphires is a movie with a lot of heart (I was going to say soul, but Ugh). Form the get go it’s packed with tension and hurt and love. The actors do an incredible job of balancing the frustrations felt along with the joys. Its not an easy movie to watch at times (especially as Gail and Kay deal with the fall-out of the stolen generation) and Mailman does such an incredible job with her protective ferocity. In addition, the soundtrack manages to add even more oomph to an already great movie. Seriously – these ladies can sing. Anyone who enjoys Motown – I Heard it through the Grapevine, Super Pie Honey Bunch, and other hit classics are performed- will love this movie.
I really enjoyed this movie. It was equal parts sad and funny, uplifting and depressing. It’s a new look at race issues that still impact the world today, and manages to neither harp on nor ignore the seriousness of the issues that the girls face. However, the Sapphires is more than that. It’s a celebration – of family, of good music and life. It’s an amazing movie based on amazing people. Fitting, no?
P.S. While the issues of the stolen generation is an important part of this movie, an excellent film that really delves into those issues is Rabbit Proof Fence. I would highly recommend that movie as well.