The Sapphires (2012)
Director: Wayne Blair
Writers: Tony Briggs, Keith Thompson
Stars: Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy
There is always a little part of me that tends to cringe at Aussie humour. It’s something about it being a little bit corny and overdone that I find groan-worthy. It is something that I’ve been discovering has been shaken out of Australian films little bit by little bit over the years and it has now hit the right tone in most Australian films that I’ve seen over the last couple of years. I think it’s also a better quality of all aspects of film making as well which has begun to give Aussie films a real chance of succeeding in other countries as well as at home. The Sapphires is a perfect example of the quality films that Australia is producing.
Based on a true story, The Sapphires follows the story of a group of Australian indigenous women with talented voices and a passion to use them. It is set during the Vietnam war, which is not a time period I know much about, apart from the funky music and cute fashion, oh and Forrest Gump. The story between the women is heartbreaking and endearing all at the same time. It shows the intricate difficulties of racism in Australia in the 50s and 60s and how it affected all people involved, not just Aboriginals nor just white people. I found that this point was handled incredibly well. It balanced the sensitivity with the truth and harshness of racism and made the world of Australia in the 1960s really come alive with a unique view from the point of view of indigenous Australians.
The highlight of the film for me had to be the relationship between Deborah Mailman’s character of Gale and Chris O’Dowd’s beautiful and hilarious portrayal of Dave. The arc of their story has a unique and wonderful twist to it and to watch it unravel on screen is simply delightful. You really feel for all the women in this film, from the women in the Sapphires to their mum, aunt, cousin, etc, there is a grace and sharpness to the shape of the relationships between the women. It is this that gripped me through the film, I was pulled in through the comedy and emotional take on the women and the battles they faced in their lives. The strength of these women is showcased in a variety of ways and it was fantastic to see strength in women displayed in these ways as it really illuminated the different ways femininity can be expressed.
Chris O’Dowd provided a wonderful lightness and humour to the film and really bound the film to an international grounding, as well as the link with the Americans in Vietnam. I really do hope this film is accepted by an international audience.
The only complaint I have about this film is the one or two times when that old Aussie cringe-worthy humour and corniness came through the cracks, but I was able to overlook this because of the strength of the rest of the film. Go and see it if you get the chance. It’s made me fall in love with Soul music all over again.