The Sapphires

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“A vastly appealing true-life musical comedy. Closer to The Commitments than Dreamgirls with its broad Down Under humor.”— Guy Lodge, Variety

Director: Wayne Blair
Year: 2012
Country: Australia
Running time: 99 mins
Censor Rating: PG - violence, coarse language, sexual references

Producers: Rosemary Blight, Kylie de Fresne
Screenplay: Keith Thompson, Tony Briggs. Based on the play by Tony Briggs
Photography: Warwick Thornton
Editor: Dany Cooper
Production designer: Melinda Doring
Costume designer: Tess Schofield
Music: Cezary Skubiszewski

With: Deborah Mailman (Gail), Jessica Mauboy (Julie), Shari Sebbens (Kay), Miranda Tapsell (Cynthia), Chris O’Dowd (Dave), Tory Kittles (Robby), Eka Darville (Hendo), Lynette Narkle (Nanny Theresa), Kylie Belling (Geraldine), Gregory J. Fryer (Selwyn)

Festivals: Cannes (Out of Competition), Melbourne 2012

“The times they may be troubled, but the focus is squarely on sing-it-sisters jubilation in this jewel-bright charmer about four spunky indigenous women whose powerhouse voices catapulted them onto the 60s-era world stage as Australia’s answer to the Supremes. First-time filmmaker Wayne Blair, an actor and theatre director, has crafted an exuberant celebration of Aboriginality that fizzes with humor and heart; its soulfulness goes beyond the embrace of a jukebox full of Motown, Stax and Atlantic Records hits…
Racial prejudice, social upheaval and the reverberating shockwaves of the Vietnam War are all there in Keith Thompson and Tony Briggs’ screenplay, based on a play Briggs wrote in 2005 about his mother and three aunts and their true-life journey from a far flung Australian mission to war-torn Vietnam to sing for the American troops in 1969, barely a year after the referendum giving citizenship rights to Aborigines. But the political is largely eschewed for the personal. A determinedly upbeat mood prevails as the four Koori soul divas, led by Australian household names Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy, shimmy and shine, fall in love and reconnect as family…
Following his endearing turn in Bridesmaids, Chris O’Dowd asserts himself as one of the most effortlessly funny actors working today, his pliant, Mr Congeniality demeanor yielding and snapping like an elastic band in his banter with Mailman’s firebrand. There’s a pleasing looseness to the sisters’ exchanges, too, and even when they’re scritching and scratching like alley cats, good humor bubbles up from beneath.” — Megan Lehmann, Hollywood Reporter

NZIFF STAFF PICK: Sharon Byrne, Brooke Hawe

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