The Sapphires could be a fun, superficial story filled with show-stopping numbers and there would be nothing wrong with that. However, director Wayne Blaire has managed to combine the fun, show-stopping stuff with serious themes – racism, oppression, war – and that’s what lifts The Sapphires a step above.
Inspired by a true story, The Sapphires follows four talented, driven and vivacious Indigenous girls who form a soul group and are selected to travel overseas to entertain the US troops during the Vietnam war. Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy), Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) and Kay (Shari Sebbens) convince something-of-a-deadbeat-but-genuinely-good-guy Dave (Chris O’Dowd) to become their manager and set off overseas to learn life lessons – jazzed up by some sweet Motown tunes.
The film takes a while to hit its stride – but once it does, it’s an all-singing all-dancing emotionally-affecting extravaganza. The film attempts to cover a lot of ground – the stolen generation (which many would like to believe is a distant part of Australian history but, as the film rightly points out, continued into the ‘60s), the issue of ‘am I black enough for you?’ re. Anita Heiss, as well as racism more generally – and it’s thanks to a neat and nimble script that it doesn’t falter.
Plus, the girls can sing. The Sapphires is yet another great Australian film released in recent months. Here’s to many more.