‘The Sapphires’: A ‘60s Musical Romp With Aboriginal Soul Sisters

"The Sapphires"  is a feel-good foot-tapper that deals with anti-aboriginal racism and the Vietnam War

Harvey Weinstein knows that “The Sapphires” is not “The Artist.”And it’s not even “The Commitments.”

But the Australian tale about a troupe of Aboriginal women singing American soul tunes on their way to breaking racial barriers is an enjoyable romp through the late 1960s and inspirational in its way.

Some early buzz on the internet mistakenly suggested that Weinstein, who is distributing the film, though he had another “Artist” on his hands.

In a conversation at the film’s afterparty on Sunday The Weinstein Company chairman said he merely meant that the film got a standing ovation like “The Artist” did – but he doesn’t expect it to win the Oscars.

The ovation is surely because the film is a feel-good foot-tapper that deals with anti-aboriginal racism and the Vietnam War.

Here’s the background: aborigines suffered humiliating discrimination and racism in Australia. In some cases pale-skinned children were snatched from their parents and placed with white families.

 “The Sapphires” is co-written by the son of one of the four original singers, Tony Briggs, whose mother was the lead singer, Lauren Briggs. Another group member was light-skinned and had been taken from her family, but rejoined when she joined “The Sapphires,” a group of sisters and cousins with heavenly voices who ended up entertaining the U.S. troops in Nam.

The film started out as a play, and has run for a decade successfully in Australia.  

In the film, lead singer Julie is played by the shockingly talented Jessica Mauboy, who sings with the technical bravura of a Mariah Carey of Christina Aguilera. She is backed up by Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell and Debra Mailman.

The seriously charming Chris O’Dowd (“Bridesmaids”) plays their alcohol-guzzling manager, traipsing through the Mekong Delta with the girls in tow.

If the narrative arc of the story is a little weak as sometimes happens in films based on real people, the overall subject is intriguing and the music always enjoyable. 

Weinstein is looking to release the film in January. If anything, it will be Oscar counter-programming, and a candidate for the Golden Globes.