Screened as part of NZIFF 2016
“Defined by images of children caught up in the joyous rigour of creative expression, Lisa Nicol’s Wide Open Sky follows conductor and choirmaster Michelle Leonard across outback New South Wales as she auditions thousands of primary school students to find the 130 annual participants for her Moorambilla Voices choir.
A formidable motivator who inclusively pushes her charges for excellence, Leonard opens up the possibility of creative betterment and self-expression in children who often come from disadvantaged backgrounds. As the film unfolds the swell of their voices gradually builds as the story moves towards a headlining appearance at a music festival. Punctuated by moments of unadorned performance – a boy dances on a tin roof in one – the documentary focuses on individual personalities and not socioeconomic factors, but it makes it clear that there are numerous children whose creative instincts just need a little nurturing. Both Leonard and Wide Open Sky refuse to accept stereotypes, and the reward for that is illuminating and joyous.” — Craig Mathieson, The Age
“A dynamic and enormously appealing combination of passionate artist and pragmatic producer who has to scrap and scramble to secure financial support from government and private sources, Leonard explains why she’s been committed to this task for the past six years. Funding cutbacks have left many schools in isolated areas with little or no capacity to provide music lessons. Music, as Leonard sees it, is about much more than rhythms and melodies.” — Richard Kuipers, Variety