Texas Art & Film's Dr. Donna Copeland's Film Reviews & Features
 
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The main intent of The Sapphires is to tell the story about four young Aboriginal Australian singers who “make it big” and end up performing for the U.S. troops in Vietnam.  At the forefront is another theme, which is racial discrimination based on color.  I found that aspect of it as moving as the singers’ professional success.   It was shocking to find that at that time, the Aboriginals were considered “flora and fauna”; not human beings.  When they are treated as such in their town, we are pulled back into our own history in the south during that same period, and it reminds us of why the civil rights movement in this country was so essential.  Not that we can rest on our laurels, given that there still remains outrage on the part of some that we have a black President.
          The story of the Sapphire group is an intriguing one to hear; they come from a culture where people do not sugarcoat as much as we do.  The women in this family seem particularly cheeky, and require others to prove themselves first before they’re respected and trusted.  The positive side of this trait is that they are also tough and able to tolerate criticism without withdrawing.  They will even concede a point to the group when they are “voted down.”  For instance, the oldest, Gail (Deborah Mailman), who is something of a mother hen to the others, shows great strength in adapting when she is told that she must give up her position as lead to a younger, better singer.
           One of the strengths of the film, finely executed by the Australian writer-director Wayne Blair, is that the viewer is kept guessing as to how everything is going to turn out.  When Emcee Dave (Chris O’Dowd) rashly offers to be their agent, we do not know whether he is up to his task, whether they can as a group come to agreements, how the women will fare in Vietnam, and so on.  That is, there is enough drama and suspense to make this an entertaining and moving film.  O’Dowd is perfect in the role of Dave with a myriad of qualities, and each of the women has a distinct personality and different life situations.  The actresses (Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, and Miranda Tapsell) are all very fine as well, with beautiful voices.

I recommend this film both for its entertainment value as well as an opportunity for the viewer to be reminded of how irrational and destructive racial prejudice can be.    Grade:  A-


 



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