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Film / The Sapphires

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The Sapphires is a 2012 Australian dramedy starring Jessica Mauboy, Chris O'Dowd and Deborah Mailman adapted from the successful stage play of the same name.

Growing up in a remote indigenous community, sisters Gail, Cynthia and Julie have always been singing and performing for their family. After enduring an unsuccessful attempt to win ten dollars in a local talent show, the girls are pursued by the talent show MC David Lovelace, who offers to manage their next audition: a gig touring Vietnam and performing for the troops. The girls accept and are joined by their city-raised cousin Kay performing as The Sapphires.



  • The Alcoholic: David. He sobers up a little after realising how good the girls are, but his drinking still lands him in trouble, especially when he forgets that Myron told him that their armed escort and the band would not be travelling with them to Nha Trang.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: David and Gail. Cynthia and Julie notice.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Averted. Gail's parents tease David about his relationship with Gail but are happy to welcome him into the family. The other side of this trope, however, is not addressed onscreen.
  • But Not Too Black: Kay is a member of the stolen generation, and her time spent in Melbourne passing as a white girl (after being taken away by an agency and put into a mission as a child) is a source of tension between her and Gail.
    • She also feels it necessary to point out to Robby that she's black, she's just "pale black." Robby responds by saying he is too.
  • Crash-Into Hello: Happens to Kay and Robby twice.
  • Cute Clumsy Boy: Robby, who manages to crash twice into Kay and then into a waitress with a tray full of drinks.
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  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The racism of the era certainly isn't glossed over.
  • Female Gaze: Kay's first reaction after her Crash-Into Hello with Robby is to notice that he's shirtless. The camera travels down his chest before cutting to Kay's expression.
  • Genre Shift: In-universe, David encourages the girls to switch from Country Music to Soul, as he knows that's what the American GIs will prefer to hear (and, not coincidentally, he prefers it himself). It works.
  • Girl Group
  • Glamorous Wartime Singer: The Sapphires sing for the U.S. troops in Vietnam.
  • Hard-Work Montage: David preparing the girls for their audition in front of the army talent recruiters.
  • Inept Talent Show Contestant: We see a few in the talent show at the beginning of the film. One of them wins the contest because of racism
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Gail seems to deal with whatever insecurities she has about her dark skin by almost relentlessly bullying Kay because of her light one.
  • Jaded Washout: David starts the film as one, but gets better.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: The original name for the group was the Cummeragunja Songbirds, but when the army officers auditioning the girls ask them to repeat the name, Kay announces 'We're The Sapphires!' after catching sight of the sapphire on Cynthia's engagement ring.
  • Mama Bear: David describes Gail as being this to the other girls. She agrees.
  • Meet Cute: Kay and Robby
  • Moral Dissonance:
    • The film is set in 1968- this was the year after Australia's indigenous population won the right to vote, but prejudice is still rife and touched upon in the film. Despite their obvious talent, when the girls perform at the talent quest in the pub, they are either ignored or viewed with contempt by the patrons. The subject of the Stolen Generation is also touched upon, as the girls' cousin Kay was taken away by authorities at a young age because she could pass as white.
    • Later in the film, Kay and Robby (an African American) attempt to treat a gravely wounded white soldier who does not want Robby touching him.
    • On the flip side, Gail is often cruel to Kay regarding the latter's skin tone, taunting her about thinking she's better than the others because of her light complexion and snarking that the only reason she's interested in Robby is to make herself blacker. Kay once made a comment about Aboriginal people not being hardworking, referring to them as "you people" and Gail holds it against her for years.
  • The '60s
  • The Vietnam War
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Unusually for this trope, the end of the film acknowledges the differences between the film's story and the people it was based on—who were two sisters and their two cousins (one of whom's son is a cowriter on the film).
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: For the women the story was based on—two sisters and their two cousins. It also reveals that the son of one of them was a co-writer for the film.


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