THE Sapphires will be flying the flag for the Australian movie industry at the upcoming BFI London Film Festival. Based on the 2004 stage production, it tells the story of the writer’s mother and aunt during their time as singers throughout the Vietnam War.
The film, set in 1968, begins when the musical talents of Aboriginal sisters Gail (Deborah Mailman), Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) and Julie (Jessica Mauboy) get spotted by Irish musician Dave (Chris O’Dowd). Together with their cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens) they are hired to travel to Vietnam to perform for the troops.
The quartet embarks on the journey from rural New South Wales to war torn Vietnam, with classic American soul providing the musical background. The movie is filled with typical family rivalry and loyalty, while Chris O’Dowd stands out as the fish-out-of-water manager, dealing with the girls with typical Irish sarcasm while developing a strong bond with them.
Although it will raise a chuckle The Sapphires is not a full blown comedy; themes of racism, prejudice and the ‘stolen generation’ feature strongly, alongside the parallels between the American civil rights movement and the struggles of the Aboriginal population. The movie is let down by occasional clichéd scripting and a few awkward singing moments, but The Sapphires remains an entertaining tale, situated within a crucial part of Australia’s history.
The Sapphires is at Odeon West End on 15 October and Hackney Picture House on 18 October.