Screening out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival is an Australian musical drama titled The Sapphires, which is inspired by the real-life story of a soul singing quartet comprised of 4 Aborigine women (all sisters) who were the heroines of a play in which writer/director Wayne Blair was an actor in 2005.
Fast-forward 7 years later, and that experience has been reimagined as a feature-length film bowing on the grandest stage of all.
Branded as Australia’s answer to The Supremes, the film's full synopsis reads:
1968 was the year the planet went haywire. All around the globe, there were riots and revolution in the streets. There were hard drugs, soft drugs, free love and psychedelic music. There was the shock of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy’s assassinations. And dominating every other news story… There was Vietnam. For four gorgeous young women from a remote Aboriginal mission, 1968 was the year that changed their lives forever. Sisters Gail, Julie and Cynthia, together with their cousin Kay, are discovered by Dave, a down-on-his-luck Irish musician with attitude, a taste for Irish Whiskey and an ear for Soul Music. Dave steers the girls away from their Country & Western origins then flies them to the war-zones of South Vietnam, where they sing Soul Classics for the American Marines. On tour in the Mekong Delta, the girls sing up a storm, dodge bullets… And fall in love.
The Weinstein Company was apparently instantly sold on it, because the company announced that it had acquired global distribution rights to the Australian film, calling it a "feel-good" movie.
And watching the trailer below, I can understand the label. The story is also undeniable familiar, even if specifics might differ – the evolution, lives, loves, ups and downs of a soul-singing group made up of young black women in the 1960s/1970s and the manipulative people around them.
Maybe Harvey and company see it as their very own Dreamgirls… or is it Sparkle… but originated in Australia. And oddly enough, like Dreamgirls, The Sapphires is based on a stage work as well.
I won't be surprised if Harvey is thinking Oscar with this one, with a fall release likely – although no specific date has been announced yet. It probably won't be seen as widely as the upcoming remake of Sparkle (to be released in August), but I think comparisons between the two will be inevitable, especially if released around the same time.
The Sapphires stars Chris O’Dowd, Aboriginal actress Deborah Mailman, pop singer Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell. It'll be released in Australia on August 9th.
Watch the trailer for the film below; and underneath you'll find an additional clip: