Soul sisters from down under

I just saw a wonderfully amusing and poignant Australian film called The Sapphires – a breakout hit at the Cannes film festival last year. If you haven’t seen it, you must.
 
Set in Australia and Southeast Asia in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War, it is a lot of fun with its trendy mod fashions and soundtrack of 60s music. 
 
But The Sapphires is not a mindless musical postcard; it includes an unlikely love story and returns constantly – and not so gently – to its theme, the universal struggle against racism.
 
As this comedy with soul opens, three Aboriginal sisters, Cynthia, Gail, and Kate, are determined to use their musical talent to escape the prejudice of their backwater village. A white audience boos them out of the local pub after they clearly win the local talent show, but they meet Dave Lovelace, a down-on-his-luck music producer. Dave drinks too much, but he has an eye for talent, and soon he and the girls team up for an audition to entertain the troops in Vietnam.
 
Dave convinces the parents of the sisters to let take their chance at the “big time” and swears to protect them. They are joined by their cousin Kate, a woman so light-skinned, she was ripped from her family and raised by a white family under the racist policies of the time.
 
Dave flatters and browbeats the bickering women into a sizzling soul group, and “The Sapphires” are born. The girls are a huge hit and win the love and admiration of thousands of soldiers. But as the group tours tensions grow.
 
The sisters swing and swivel to soul but they also simmer with resentments. Gail as the eldest has always had to protect the younger girls. Dave is in charge now, but Gail can’t let go. She has never been able to lean on anyone or trust – and with good reason. She can’t even trust her feelings for Dave. Cynthia has fled a broken engagement why she was left at the altar. No she can’t get enough male approval. And Kate tries to figure out who she is as she deals with her mixed-race identity and new relationship with her gentle black boyfriend.
 
The film is funny, sexy, and surprisingly deep. Just when you think it is another feel-good bio-pic, it grabs you and makes you think and feel – just as good soul music does. Don’t miss this one.
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