The Sapphires Blu-ray Review
Few films move me. THE SAPPHIRES is one of those films. It tugs at your heart, nourishes you with great music and teaches you a little bit. This isn’t a perfect work of art, but it sure is an enjoyable ride.
THE SAPPHIRES begins with some somber notes about the Aboriginals in Australia. They were denied full citizenship until 1967. The Aboriginals were segregated and forced to live on church missions or Aboriginal reserves. The fair skinned Aboriginal children were taken away and either raised in institutions or placed with white families to learn their ways. Don’t let the beginning scare you into thinking that it will just be a serious film about race. Race certainly plays a big part, but this is more of an uplifting film about the spirit of four amazing women and their determination and will to fight against the backwards ways of these turbulent times.
The film mostly takes place in 1968 in Australia and Vietnam. There are some flashbacks ten years prior to a pivotal event of the characters. THE SAPPHIRES is based on a play by Tony Briggs. Briggs is the son of one of the real life women that this is based on. Three Aboriginal sisters on a church mission are trying to make it in this world with their singing. We have Gail (Deborah Mailman), who is the oldest sister. She’s feisty and headstrong. She doesn’t take guff from anyone. Then there is Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell), a girl who so desires love that she naively keeps on falling for the same guy that stands her up. Julie (Jessica Mauboy) is the youngest. She has a child and has the strongest voice of the three. Director Wayne Blair presents the life on the mission as a loving atmosphere and not an oppressive situation that could have been lazily shown. Blair has stated that he strove for authenticity and this is what he found out about these areas that are shown.
The trio treks to a talent contest where their kind is not welcome. They perform a Merle Haggard song beautifully, but lose to a far less superior white woman. This is one of the subtle times where race is pushed into focus. The women are not treated with respect and looks of the faces in the crowd tells it all. The contest is not a total loss because they meet a white MC, who loses his job protesting the outcome. Dave Lovelace is his name. He is played magnificently by Chris O’Dowd. Whenever there is a lull in the story, O’Dowd is there to boost things up with his portrayal of a boozy manager.
The women see a flyer for an audition to play in front of the troops in Vietnam. They enlist the services of their cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens). Kay would be considered a fair skinned Aboriginal. For the past 10 years she has been immersed in the white culture. At first Kay is resistant to join the group, but she sees what an empty existence she has and changes her mind.
Dave convinces Gail that Julie should be the lead singer on most of the songs. This is one of the many confrontations that Dave has with Gail about the direction of the group. These are some great scenes and realized nicely by O’Dowd and Mailman. The best scenes though may be between Gail and Kay. There is an underlying tension between the two women that bubbles up at various times. The flashback scenes deal mainly with their relationship and how it affected them. Once again we learn the tricky aspects of race and the complicated and difficult path of the Aboriginals. I appreciated the history lesson that is presented here.
The group does travel to Vietnam as the war was in high gear at the time. Blair treads lightly around the horrors of the war. The ladies perform before various audiences that include wounded soldiers which affected them greatly. There are also some love stories that don’t get fully realized, but are a welcome distraction from the more serious stuff.
The highlight of THE SAPPHIRES is of course the music. Dave convinces the group to ditch the country songs and go more to soul songs. Dave wanted them to sing more “black”. This is wise choice as they take to these songs with full force. There are some hiccups along the way as they try to perfect their dance moves with funny results. I just love the voice of Mauboy. She apparently is a star in Australia with platinum and gold albums to her credit. It is easy to understand why. She just pierces your soul with her angelic voice.
THE SAPPHIRES is a fun movie with an important message to be told. This is a piece of work that will stick with you for a while.
THE SAPPHIRES BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: The bright colors of the outfits the group wears stand out. All the scenes, no matter if they are day or night, are clear and easy to make out.
Audio: The music bursts through the speakers as intended.
The Making of The Sapphires (9:42): Cast members and the various filmmakers discuss the genesis of the film. This includes the casting process and what the film means to each of them.
Interview with the Original Sapphires (5:46): Screenwriter Tony Briggs interviews the real life women who inspired the film. Briggs is the son of one of the women.