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The Sapphires

Winner of over 10 international awards!

At the start of "The Sapphires," about an Australian girl group that entertained troops during the Vietnam war, four little girls run to a stage to perform a lovely folk song in front of family, friends and neighbors. It's the late 1950s, and the chirping cherubs go by the name of the Cummeragunja Songbirds, for the Australian reserve they and other aboriginals have been shunted to. The harmonies they strike in this reality-inspired charmer are sweetly sublime. This is especially ironic for a movie about the familial disharmony sewn when Australian authorities "stole" the lightest of the girls and put her with a foster family to be raised as white. The policy didn't end in some regions until the early 1970s. The quartet grew up to be a trio, made up of brown-skinned sisters Gail (Deborah Mailman), Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) and Julie (Jessica Mauboy). Cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens) wound up in the city. When her kin track her down to ask her to join them for an audition, she's co-hosting a prim, properly bland Tupperware party. "Crowd-pleaser" might be an odd term for a movie that deals with state-sanctioned racism, but that is precisely how "The Sapphires" has been received since its premiere at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. "Argo" might have been the big surprise at the Telluride Film Festival, but "The Sapphires" was the emotional hit. The movie's triumphant vision likely comes from co-writer Tony Briggs, who wrote the 2004 stage play the movie is based on. His mother and aunt were singers who toured Vietnam. The central performances all have their pleasures. But the film's nearly irresistible on-screen chemistry comes by way of Irish actor Chris O'Dowd and Mailman. The "Bridesmaid" co-star plays the hard-tippling (and purely accidental) manager Dave Lovelace, who introduces the women to soul music. Mailman gives eldest Gail a protective and sarcastic edge that makes their vying for the welfare of the group spark. The movie's finger-snapping appeal comes by way of a slew of R&B and rock 'n' roll tunes that provide a rousing yet confounding soundtrack to a bloody war. It probably doesn't hurt either that director Wayne Blair, himself an indigenous artist, cast Mauboy as Julie, the youngest but also most melodic of the songbirds. The performer got her start as a finalist on "Australian Idol," and now, like a number of her "American Idol" counterparts, is a pop success. Courtesy: Lisa Kennedy, The Denver Post Official Trailer

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Directed by: 
Wayne Blair
Running Time: 
Chris O'Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell, Tory Kittles
Screenplay by: 
Tony Briggs, Keith Thompson

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