The Sapphires is based (loosely) on the experiences of film writer Tony Briggs’ mother and three aunts, who formed an Indigenous Australian, all-girl soul-singing troupe of the same name in the 1960’s.
Where The Sapphires is rewarded most favourably is from the casting of two of Australia’s entertainment darlings – Deborah Mailman (Offspring, Rabbit Proof Fence) and Jessica Mauboy (of humble Australian Idol beginnings and whose natural musical talents are really in the spotlight here). Both are genuine, feisty and joyfully naive in their characters. It’s exciting and refreshing to see a film with a mostly all- Australian (female) cast that can take on the mainstream so well.
While the girls deal with stereotypes and subjugation, in the battlefield of Vietnam and in the racial tensions of small-town Australia in the late 60’s (illustrated well in the first 30 minutes of the film), we see hints of a revolutionary mindset of a generation coming of age in a society that is starting to question predominant norms.
There are many parallels between the experiences shared in the film, and those that plenty of women still battle today; and there is much to take away from the inspiring energy of the four cousins.
The real Sapphires are also professional trailblazers – Naomi Mayers has been the Chief Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Medical Service for 30 years, and received an Order of Australia medial in 1984. Lois Peeler is the Executive Director of Worawa Aboriginal College, a secondary education facility for young Aboriginal Women, and is also the former head of Aboriginal Tourism Australia. All four members of The Sapphires have also worked tirelessly to improve the health of the aboriginal community.
While it is clear that the film aims to be a people pleaser, it does suffer slightly when indirectly dabbling in themes of racism. While these clearly serve the undertone of the film, it is offered as mere allusions and lets parts of the film down, particularly towards the end.
Despite this, The Sapphires is an altogether entertaining film that provides a universal message about battling (and sometimes ignoring) prejudices to achieve aspirations.
The Sapphires is a charming, occasionally campy film that deals with issues of racism, class and war. It’s also a story from which women can take some inspiration – but espeically women who are battling adversity amidst attitudes that they cannot control. Ultimately, the film is a triumphant celebration of love, aspiration, and the female spirit.
Have you seen The Sapphires? What do you think? Can the attitudes of the women in the film be applied to your life? Let us know below