The Sapphires

Remember 1968? LBJ is President, Vietnam is still a war zone, North Korea captures the USS Pueblo, and in Australia, it is still legal to remove light-skinned Aboriginal children from their homes, and place them in institutions to teach them the white man's ways. (A practice which was outlawed in 1969/70, this controversial issue is also addressed in both "Australia" and "Rabbit-Proof Fence.")

We are in a remote outpost in Australia. Three girls perform for an itinerant talent scout, played by Chris O'Dowd ("Bridesmaids"). They sing a Merle Haggard song and he joins in on his electronic keyboard, adding some Floyd Kramer piano stylings. He offers them the chance to audition for a USO tour to Southeast Asia to entertain the troops. As soon as they arrive in the city, they look up a former playmate who had been captured and raised by whites.

After an initial culture gap during which the four of them must become re-acquainted AND learn Soul (their new manager knows their audience won't expect Country/Western from a girl group that looks like The Supremes), they are booked and head off for Vietnam.

Based on a popular play by Tony Briggs, whose mother was one of the original "Sapphires," this satisfying sample of the sixties is great on many levels: O'Dowd is very good; each girl has her own distinct personality, issues, and career arc; while the clothes, news, and problems of the times are faithfully portrayed. I loved the big hair, the go-go boots and the Tupperware.

We get to see what a dangerous challenge a USO tour might become. It's fun to watch as our gals develop stage presence, refine their music and become at ease in the spotlight. In a very welcome postscript, we learn what each young woman achieved after mastering these important skills.

This film festival favorite is playing in art houses so you may not see it in your local multiplex; in that case, watch for the DVD. JayFlix.net participants will be notified when it is available. (NOTE: Closed Captions will be welcome!)
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