Sapphires shine on big screen
It's the little Aussie film that could have, and has. The Sapphires has won praise all over the world for its combination of drama, humour and musicality, including a 10-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.
And even though the voice behind most of the film's songs is better known for her singing rather than acting, the prospect of tackling classic soul songs was daunting.
"There were definitely... moments of anxiety, knowing I was singing these amazing songs and I guess that was the scary point. I would tense up and say 'I don't think I can do it'," Jessica Maubouy said on a whirlwind trip to Auckland this week.
"I had to get into my head, 'I'm not just singing a song. This is something that has been around, that people have connected with'."
Set in 1968, The Sapphires tells the true story of four Aboriginal women, sisters Gail, Julie and Cynthia, and their cousin Kay, who overcame cultural segregation at home before travelling to Vietnam to perform for the troops as the war was exploding around them.
Mauboy plays Julie, the youngest sister, and a solo mother with a killer voice.
But for the 23-year-old, who first caught the public's attention coming second in Australian Idol in 2006, this was a personal story she was determined to do justice to.
"I knew I had to do it. I fell in love with it, and connected with it culturally and musically.
"It was very inspiring, knowing these women had paved the pathway for Aboriginal women, and to have Aboriginal women seen as strong and that they held themselves very well."
Mauboy is only now discovering her Aboriginal roots. Her mother married her Indonesian father when she was just 16, and immersed herself and their children, in his culture. It meant the actress knew very little about the Aboriginal side of her family growing up.
"But this film has really given me that opportunity to find my mum's family... it was quite emotional... families in Australia, in indigenous communities, are still reuniting today. And this film gives that opportunity to express that, and express that you shouldn't be afraid to express your culture, and express who you really are, and that's a beautiful thing.
"I find myself as a role model in my community and it's certainly quite overwhelming, but it's more of a gift."
Filmed over just six weeks, The Sapphires was one of the first foreign film crews to be granted approval to film in Vietnam since the war.
And in just her second feature film, Mauboy, along with fellow cast members Chris O'Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell, could hardly believe her luck.
"It was the most exciting moment of my life. The fact we were filming between two highways, filled with these little tuk-tuk bikes, people crossing and we literally stopped it - it was like we stopped time.
"And I looked at the other girls and it was just like we were trying to take a breath. The fact these four Aboriginal, Australian women today, were telling this wonderful, true Australian story. It was pretty epic - like a film in itself."
The Sapphires opens in cinemas today
- © Fairfax NZ News
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