Glittering Sapphires: The incredible story of an Aboriginal band who overcame racism to become Australia's SupremesNew movie tells true story of four indigenous singers plucked from obscurity and sent to Vietnam in 1968 to perform for the troopsGirls battled racism to rise to stardom in Australia and abroadThe Sapphires received 10 minute standing ovation at Cannes and was bought up by producer Harvey Weinstein
12:38 GMT, 7 October 2012
An inspiring new film tells the unlikely story of four young Aboriginal singers who rose to fame in the face of racial prejudice as Australia's answer to The Supremes.
A favourite at Cannes and a box office smash Down Under, The Sapphires follows the talented quartet as they are plucked from obscurity in a remote Aboriginal mission, formed into a dynamic singing group and sent to entertain the troops in Vietnam in 1968.
The heartwarming tale is brought to life by writer and former Neighbours star, Tony Briggs, whose mother Laurel Robinson and her sister and cousins – Lois Peeler, Beverley Briggs and Naomi Mayers – were the real Sapphires, four decades ago.
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Heartwarming: The inspiring film, pictured, tells the unlikely story of four young Aboriginal singers who rose to fame in the face of the racial prejudice
'I said to the women, ''we have to take a lot of artistic license, but the core of this story for me is about the strength of character of the individuals and the women in my family, my aunties and cousins and who I'd grown up with'',' Briggs told The Australian.
Success: The film received a 10 minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival
He said his family loved the idea that their experience had inspired a mainstream feature film.
'It is based on a true story and true events,' he said. 'And I've been the one responsible for pulling their stories together.'
The movie, one of the highest-grossing in Australian history, received a 10 minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was bought up by heavyweight producer Harvey Weinstein.
It will be released in Britain next month.
An adaption of a hugely successful Australian stage musical, the movie stars 23-year-old Australian Idol sensation Jessica Mauboy as lead singer Julie.
Irish actor Chris O'Dowd from the IT Crowd and Hollywood comedy Bridesmaids is the group's kind-hearted, soul-loving manager Dave who discovers the girls one night in a dusty outback tavern.
Impressed by their honey-sweet voices, Dave convinces the band to switch their act from country and western to soul.
While the racist locals strongly oppose the idea of an Aboriginal singing group, Dave vows to make the Sapphires sparkle – all over the world.
And he succeeds, with the group's first performance taking them to Vietnam where they sing tunes by Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding for the appreciative soldiers.
The true story differs somewhat.
Only two of the four women born into the Yorta Yorta community along Victoria's Murray River, ventured to Vietnam – Briggs' mother, Laurel, and her sister, Lois, – while the others refused in protest of the war.
Vietnam: The Sapphires, pictured in the film, were sent to Vietnam to entertain the troops
Heartwarming: Chris O'Dowd, right, from the IT crowd and Bridesmaid is the group's kind-hearted manager
As well as portraying the anger brought on by Australia's involvement in the war, the racism the singers encountered as they sought stardom is a central issue.
'The Sapphires are four black twenty-something women who for one brief period of time have an opportunity to transcend the circumstances they're born into and reach their full potential,' the movie's Aboriginal director Wayne Blair told the Guardian.
'In Australia in 1968, the racial divide was significant. My own Nana died in 1966… she died in her own country classed as an outsider.'
Cannes: Aboriginal director Wayne Blair, centre, with the film's stars Shari Sebbens, Jessica Mauboy, Miranda Tapsell and Deborah Mailman (l-r) shone at Cannes
Stars: Irish actor Chris O'Dowd, left, plays the band's manager Dave while Australian Idol star Jessica Mauboy, right, plays lead singer Julie
Real Sapphires: The original Sapphire's (l-r) Laurel Robinson, Naomi Mayers, Lois Peeler and Beverly Briggs are thrilled at the film's success
The girls' tour of Vietnam was an
extraordinary achievement for two young Aboriginal women, considering
that Aboriginal people had just received the right to vote.
All four original Sapphires still live in Australia. Naomi Mayers has been the Chief Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Medical Service for 30 years and received an Order of Australia Medal in 1984.
Ms Peeler became Australia's first Aboriginal model and is now the Executive Director of Worawa Aboriginal College, a secondary education facility for young Aboriginal Women.