Review: The Sapphires



Four Aborigine gals, an alcoholic Australian DJ and the Vietnam War combine to make up a film you’re going to love. It is a rockin’ tribute to human drive and values and a poignant story of love, forgiveness and race amidst the bombs and casualties of war. Based on a true story, “The Sapphires” has broken box-office records in Australia and is a special treat for an audience of all ages.

The gals who end up forming the group called “The Sapphires” love to sing and grew up on the folksongs of their region. When they decide to try out for a contest with a country western tune they are disrespected by the local white population. However, the presiding DJ knows potential when he sees it and before long he is their manager, teaching them to sing with soul like James Brown. Then he gives them a challenging offer, to perform in a war zone for American troops.

There are two outstanding things about this sweet film that grips the audience and makes it a wonderful movie. One is the flat-out great music. These gals belt out Motown numbers like “I Heard it on the Grapevine” and “I’ll Take You There” with Supremes-like soul. At their first gig for the troops at a bar in Saigon (clip below) they are a little unsure of themselves at first, but when the audience starts dancing their fears disappear.

The second thing that grips the audience is the personal stories these girls have to tell. Politically, Aborigines were not granted the right to vote in Australia until 1967. Their odyssey for respect is a tender subject.

One of the gals, half white, has a sad, complicated history. With cuts from Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy as well as Vietnam footage, the war days are recalled as complicated times and the story of “The Sapphires” reflects that.

Tony Briggs, a son of one of “The Sapphires,” wrote the screenplay. An epilogue gives information (providing more inspiration) on what has happened to all the girls since their time performing during the war.

This is a wonderful film that will have you walking around singing for days after. You’ll be sorry when the movie is over.

“The Sapphires”
The 36th Portland International Film Festival
Fri, Feb. 8 at 6 p.m. and Sun, Feb 10, at 5 p.m.

Film Credits
Director: Wayne Blair
Producers: Rosemary Blight and Kylie Du Fresne
Screenplay: Keith Thompson and Tong Briggs, based on the play by Tony Briggs
Cast: Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Stebbens and Miranda Tapsell
Release Dates: May 19, 2012 (Cannes), Aug. 9 2012 (Australia), March 22, 2013 (USA)
Runtime: 103 minutes
Country: Australia

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