Opening this weekend, The Sapphires is a music laced snapshot of the lives of four Aboriginal ladies as they perform for soldiers on the front lines at the start of the Vietnam conflict. Cinedelphia had the chance to speak briefly with director Wayne Blair on the topics of Australian idols, soul music and movie making.
CINEDELPHIA: As this movie was based on a true story with the son of one of the ladies helping with the writing, what responsibilities did you feel as the director?
WAYNE BLAIR: Well, working with Tony Briggs and Keith Thompson was a very good process. The main responsibility was to stay honest with the story and responsive with what we were writing. With a story like this, it was good to have experienced writers working with me that are passionate about the story, with great results.
C: What were the challenges in directing a period piece like this?
WB: The most important part was keeping it in the now, keeping it in the present. Working with such a good cast was important because they had to tell this story without overacting. It gives the movie a sense of authenticity, keeping it as real as possible. When you make a movie like this, there’s a lot at stake. You have to pay attention to all of the small details in order to get the time right.
C: Music plays a big part in this movie. Tell us something about the process of making a musical film.
WB: It took eighteen months to clear all of the rights for the songs, to get the arrangements right and to rehearse with everyone. The actors sang for the musical pieces all for themselves. Six weeks of preparations and we were ready, the girls worked really hard together; as young actresses, they worked really hard, had great work ethics. That and they also are very talented in their own rights. It all made for an awesome experience.
C: How was it working with Chris O’Dowd?
WB: Chris is a very generous actor, he gives a lot of himself to the roles that he plays. It was very good having him not only in the movie, but also on the set. He was very grounded and helpful with the younger actors.
C: The movie has a component addressing the racial tensions of the time, which are slightly different from the American perspectives on the topic as this story is told from an Australian viewpoint. Do you think that this will affect how the movie is received?
WB: Everybody can relate to the issues of race, it’s something that stretches across all countries. What i hope this movie tells everyone is that diversity is something that we all can embrace. It’s not about fearing our differences, it’s about embracing our differences.
The Sapphires is now playing at the Ritz Five and in other Philly-area theaters.