Singers rise above country town bigotry


THE SAPPHIRES. Starring Chris O'Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy and Miranda Tapsell. Directed by Wayne Blair. 100 mins. Rated PG (Mild violence, themes, coarse language and sexual references).

Quite a crowd pleaser – and deservedly so.

Who were the Sapphires? They were a group of Australian singers who went to Vietnam in the late 1960s to entertain the troops. They have not loomed large in the Australian memory. Why? Was it because the Sapphires were an aboriginal group and their tour of Vietnam took place just after the 1967 referendum on the aboriginal vote?

The film is an adaptation of a musical play written by Tony Briggs whose mother and aunt were members of The Sapphires. It has been directed with feeling by actor, Wayne Blair. It is not intended as a documentary account of what happened. Rather, it is an entertainment, an often-thoughtful entertainment, developing story lines from the original experiences.

It is a delight to see pictures of the women at the end of the film and learn of their more than forty years of service to the Aboriginal communities, especially in Redfern.

On an Aboriginal mission in country Victoria, some girls enter a competition in the local town, much to the prejudice of the hotel proprietor and many of the people attending the talent quest. The girls don’t win. And some bigoted, even vicious comments are aimed at them.


The Sapphires (Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting)