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lime Screen Interview: The Sapphires

Lime interview - Screen

The Sapphires

words by

Cassam Looch

Reporter: Cassam Looch

A huge hit its homeland, Australian musical comedy 'The Sapphires' made its UK debut at the 56th London Film Festival.

The cast and director were in town to talk about the movie, and walk down the BLUE carpet (clever). We caught up with them to talk about this hugely entertaining film.


Based on a true story, some of the characters have been changed to fit the structure of the film. Entering the picture is flamboyant musician Dave, played by Chris O'Dowd. How much of his character is based on real people?


“The impression that I get is that he [Dave] is an accumulation of a number of people. I know that there was an Irish uncle, who is still in the film, that the character was probably drawn from. I don't think that there was anyone specific”


The setting for the film is 1968 outback Australia. Four young Aborigine girls set their sights in stardom, and to do this they must take on the prejudices of their fellow countrymen as well as the dangers of war torn Vietnam. The script is based on a popular stage play, but what was it about the film that appealed to the actors?


“I loved the world and I felt like I didn't know anything about it. We're quite fortunate in our acting profession that we can learn about things through work. I wanted to educate myself in that, and I love the music. It felt like something very different.” continues O'Dowd. 


Jessica Mauboy, a star from the Australian version of Pop Idol, had some great memories of filming on location in Vietnam. 


“It was pretty chaotic. There were times when we had days off and went shopping, but it was just beautiful culturally everyone was really lovely and we respected that.”


Co-star Shari Sebbens adds: “It was great. We had a couple of nights to get over the jet-lag. There were moments when we were grabbing lunch and it was hot and sticky but it was so much fun. A world away from where we had been.”


“It was the first time I went to Vietnam, and I remember there was a scene on the riverbank that we were about to film as a cyclone was about to hit. This massive scene, and we had to stop and start. But it was great, and everyone was patient. It was hard, but exciting. I think it was the first time anyone had filmed in Vietnam” says Deborah Mailman, who also starred in the stage production.


Director Wayne Blair highlights how much of a big deal it was to film in Vietnam. 


“It was the first time a Western film had been shot there for 10-12 years. They welcomes us with open arms.”


Mailman also spoke about learning the complex dance routines requires for the film. 


“it was hard, and it was fun. We had a great choreographer on board and it was pretty much being locked away in a rehearsal room, sweating, going through the songs until we got to the point where we could take it in front of the camera.”


The final member of the The Sapphires is Miranda Tapsell, and she was introduced to the story when she went to see the stage production many years ago. 


“I saw [Deborah Mailman] in the stage show and I was so star struck. I was like a mad Beatles fan, so it was such an experience getting an audition for the film.”


And what happened to the real life Sapphires?


“They had a career, but not in singing. They came back home and are still very active in health and education. They didn't come back to singing, but have made a change to communities. The sisters actually came on set a couple of times, and worked with us on the indigenous language parts of the film.”


Expanding on what impact the film has had, Sebbens says: 


“I think it starts a conversation which Australians aren't necessarily that keen to have. We've heard stories from our mothers, aunties and grandparents about the racism and still experience it today.”


“I think what is so great about the film is that it helps change the way indigenous women are portrayed and the perception of them. We've played victims of domestic abuse, or women just coming out of prison. Many negative things, but these women are very much three dimensional. There have been a lot of significant changes and funding for indigenous stories, and there has been a shift to embrace these stories.” the other girls add. 


'The Sapphires' is released nationwide on 7 November. 


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