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The Sapphires

 

We’ve seen plenty of films centred on the victories of the Civil Rights Movement. Most are quite interesting but the bulk of them seem to float in the ether of the social and political significance of their subject matter, and don’t make a particularly smooth landing in the grit and grime of reality. That criticism can’t be levelled at The Sapphires.

Inspired by the true story of the writer’s mother, who toured Vietnam during the American WarThe Sapphires portrays three sisters and a cousin, young Aboriginal women who in 1968 are discovered by a drunk Irishman who can barely hold down a job but has a great passion for Soul music and recognises a talent. Auditioning for an American military talent scout, they are recruited and find themselves on their way to a war zone.

The story veers close to the heavy themes of racial discrimination, the Stolen Generation, and the moral predicament of the Western powers in Vietnam, but deftly avoids wallowing in them, instead focusing on the narrative of a family. It is remarkably how carefully balanced this story is, since it could so easily drop into a tirade on the heavy themes it skirts, but instead focuses on the triumph of hope and perseverance.

The Sapphires is distinctly the product of the early twenty-first century. It looks back at this period as a critical juncture in world history, a point when the usual shift in cultural values across the western world took on seismic significance and fundamentally altered the way we see things. And unlike most films that try to do this, it doesn’t preach, it doesn’t overstate the political and cultural significance of its subject matter. It just tells the story of five young people experiencing change at the crossroads of world culture. This is cinema at its best.

 

 
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Posted by on Friday, 10 August 2012 in Australian Film, Film, Goalpost Pictures

 

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Bran Nue Dae

Bran Nue Dae is a bit of a romp, but I’m not entirely convinced this film has survived some of its more irksome quirks. By and large the story sings, the direction is clear, and the cinematography is inspired, but a few lines of uninspired dialogue, a few missed beats, and the occasional diversion from the film’s primary mode of storytelling let down what is otherwise a light, unassuming comedy that would do the Australian film industry proud.
Ernie Dingo and Geoffrey Rush could be said to have saved this film. In the lead role is Rocky McKenzie, who can sing, but comes across rather wooden, even in singing mode. If it were a stage play, I would say it was over-rehearsed, but I’m not sure that’s possible with film. I would assume Jessica Mauboy was cast for much the same reason: her voice is spectacular, and this is one of the film’s redeeming features, but the moment she must speak it’s like she seizes up and loses all sense of her character. Missy Higgins is another actor who was surely cast for her musical talent, but whose performances as a character were charming, mesmerising and hilarious.
I don’t want to be too critical, because I actually really liked the film. It has a great story, some hilarious characters and scenarios, and some really great music. I just couldn’t quite relax into it.
 
 

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