The Sapphires Parent Guide
Parent Movie Review
Occasionally we see a film where the positive messages offset the content concerns. While it doesn’t mean the movie is suitable for all family members, the production still merits attention from appropriate audiences. The Sapphires falls into that category.
Movies about girl groups aren’t uncommon. Dreamgirls, Spice World, Josie and the Pussycats, The Runaways, even Mamma Mia! feature female singers. But The Sapphires has a broader focus than these performers’ musical ambitions.
During the turbulent 60s, racial prejudice raged as prevalently Down Under as it did on American soil. Until 1967, Australian Aborigines weren’t even considered human by the British. Their light-skinned children were routinely taken from their homes on mission land and placed with white families to be raised. This government policy, intended to civilize the natives, resulted in the country’s Stolen Generation.
Such is the setting for The Sapphires. In 1968, Aborigines Gail (Deborah Mailman), Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell), their little sister Julie (Australian R&B singer Jessica Mauboy) and their cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens) want to perform for the troops in Vietnam. The only problem is finding a way for this group from a remote mission in the Outback to get an audition. At a local talent show (where the only applause they receive is from a boy too young to be tainted by bigotry), they stumble upon Dave Loveland (Chris O’Dowd), a scruffy, floundering music manager who drinks like a fish. Though not polished, the sisters’ rendition of a Merl Haggard tune catches Dave’s attention and, after some badgering from the girls, he arranges an audition—but only if they agree to give up the country and western songs and sing Motown favorites.
Just because these sisters have dark skin doesn’t mean the soul music comes easily to them. And making amends with their light-skinned cousin Kay, who was whisked away from her home as a child, also takes effort. But their goal to sing in Saigon helps them push through their problems.
Based on a true story and a subsequent stage play, the script, written by the son of one of the real Sapphires, is a labor of love. Unfolding slowly, the obvious thrust of the story is the girls’ short career rather than the events that rocked that decade. Black and white footage of war protests, Martin Luther King’s speech and the riots that followed his assassination serve only as a backdrop in this film. Rather, it explores racial prejudice, the strength of family and culture ties and changing norms. While the movie features less than perfect Hollywood faces, the casts’ real looks are a refreshing twist in this Australian-made production. And although the plot meanders at times, the pace allows for characters to develop in a realistic way.
However, the film also features a brief but intense scene of warfare. Meant to mimic real events, rather than the kind of explosive action found in titles like G.I. Joe Retaliation, the war violence and the resulting injuries depicted here have a more sobering feel. Frequent smoking and drinking are also portrayed, along with a casual attitude toward sexual activity and profanities.
Although The Sapphires never achieved the fame of groups like The Supremes, this quiet little story of their contribution during the chaotic events of the Vietnam War offers inspiring entertainment for older teens and adults.Directed by Wayne Blair. Starring Chris O'Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell. Running time: 103 minutes. Theatrical release April 5, 2013. Updated July 17, 2017
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Sapphires rated PG-13? The Sapphires is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for sexuality, a scene of war violence, some language, thematic elements and smoking.
Violence: Footage of war protests, riots and war are shown. A character says he is going to steal some gas. A man guts a fish with a knife while making mildly threatening remarks to another character. An explosion goes off in a military camp followed by an air and gun attack from the enemy. A man is shot in the stomach. Injured soldiers are seen in a military hospital. A man dies after being shot. Body bags with corpses are seen on a plane. Girls punch and slap one another causing one of the girl’s lips to bleed. Government officials forcibly remove children from their homes.
Sexual Content: A young, unmarried girl has a child from a previous sexual encounter. Clothed and partially clothed couples are seen passionately kissing. Characters wear some provocative clothing or swimwear on brief occasions. A well-built soldier is seen without his shirt. Some sexual references and innuendo are also included. A man is seen in only his underwear and a shirt on a public street. Comments are made about married men who are involved in adulterous relationships.
Language: The script contains profanities, frequent uses of scatological slang, ethnic and cultural slurs along with name-calling and infrequent terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: The movie includes frequent portrayals of tobacco and alcohol use. A character drinks to deal with stress and other hardships in life. A man offers alcohol to a girl who is nervous. Some characters become drunk.
Page last updated July 17, 2017
The Sapphires Parents' Guide
How does this film depict the idea that racial prejudice is not just an issue for white people? How does skin color affect family members in this story? How does the plight of the Australian Aborigine compare with that of African and Native Americans? What groups experience racial bias in other countries?
Why do you think government officials chose to place light-skinned children in white homes? What did they hope to accomplish? How does this compare with similar programs in other countries? What impact does this policy have on the children who are taken from their homes? What do the elderly family members understand about the importance of family traditions and rituals?
How do the actors and actresses in this movie differ from many of the other celebrities we see? Do their more average or realistic looks add to the believability of their characters?
Find out where are The Sapphires now. How have they used their lives to further the cause of the Australian Aborigines?
This movie is based on stage play that is based on a true story.
The most recent home video release of The Sapphires movie is August 6, 2013. Here are some details…
The Sapphires releases to home video on August 6, 2013. Bonus extras include:
- The Making of The Sapphires
- Interview With The Original Sapphires
- The Music of The Sapphires with Jessica Mauboy