Those that missed this gem of a film when it was released late last year will have another chance to see it this weekend. Adapted from a stage play by Tony Briggs (known for the Aussie soap opera Neighbors), The Sapphires is based on the true story of his mother, who toured Vietnam to entertain the troops in the Sixties as part of a Supremes-inspired Aboriginal all-girl group. The film broke box office records when it was released in Australia, and the Motown-infused soundtrack was the first since Moulin Rouge to top the album charts there.
Though very much a light-hearted, feel-good musical comedy, The Sapphires does touch on the darker aspects of the era as the ladies navigate prejudice to bring their music to the masses — and forgo country music to find their soul. The film stars Chris O'Dowd, the Irish actor who won hearts and minds as Nathan Rhodes in Bridesmaids. As The Sapphires’ quirky manager — who holds the opinion that "90 percent of all recorded music is shite" and "the other 10 percent is soul" — he steals both laughs and scenes.
“I thought it was a little indie Australian film that would at most make it to New Zealand and Tasmania,” said O'Dowd of the project in a BBC interview. "I didn't think it was something that was going to try and take on the world."
Other festival selections that will be of interest to music fans include Hunky Dory, a musical from the producers of Billy Elliot that features popular songs from the ‘70s, and Backbeat, which focuses on The Beatles’ pre-fame.