I’m not the sort of person who will praise a movie (or being Australian should I say film?) because it was made in Australia. Rather the opposite these days. Australian films in the past couple of decades have tended to be produced by the intelligentsia for the intelligentsia. Heaven forbid that moviemaking should be about bums on seats has been their consensus.
Finally, a film I can be proud of. The Sapphires is a film that was based on a play written by Tony Briggs. Briggs’ inspiration were his mother, Laurel Robinson, and his aunt, Lois Peeler. They toured Vietnam as singers in the late sixties, really unusual back then because they were Aboriginal. And in the late sixties, 1967 actually, there was a referendum that finally gave Indigenous Australians full citizenship. Can you believe it? Australian citizenship in their own country.
The Sapphires is set in 1968, a year after this referendum. That’s the background. We also see see fleeting glimpses of the country wide riots caused by Martin Luther King’s assassination.
But the central story revolves around four Aboriginal women who tour Vietnam during the war. It’s more about the music than the historical happenings of the time. It was a musical with a message if you’re looking for it, rather than a message with some music. The former is the way that I like it. It follows in the proud tradition of South Pacific, Fiddler on the Roof and Priscilla Queen of the Desert to name just a few. Tbhose films leave us (or we leave them) whistling and humming the songs. In this case, songs that had me reminiscing about my youth and bopping in my seat, thus embarrassing my poor granddaughters. The Sapphires entertained and gave me, without belabouring the point something to think about. I’m sure it’s going to be a hit overseas. If it gets to where you live, do go and see it. It’s a fabulous film