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Director Wayne Blair is bringing the story of The Sapphires, based on the 2004 stage play of the same name, to the States. The film follows four Aboriginal Australian women who are discovered by a talent scout to form one of the first music groups of its kind. It details their journey as the quartet travels to Vietnam in 1968 to sing for troops during the war. With inspiration from the Civil Rights Movement, audiences will get a glimpse into a story of racial challenges, music biz struggles and triumphs over turmoils of the times.
BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Blair about the influences of Aboriginal culture in the film as well as how young filmmakers can take elements of their culture to tell new stories in Hollywood.
You are originally from Australia. How much of the culture will we get to see as part of this movie?
Blair: The girls are Aboriginal, and audiences get see their hometown, how they grew up, and their struggle. You get Australian history … Aboriginal history.
How can directors and filmmakers leverage their cultural experiences to tell new stories in Hollywood?
They have to really like their story of where they’re from, and be a hero for their story. They should push for their stories to be told, seen and heard. It should be a reflection of themselves. They have to keep working on it and leverage a way to get it to mainstream audiences. I think it can be done.
What’s the funnest part of working on this movie?
A really great thing is being onset and seeing the moments. It’s great working together with a team of like-minded people who have the same vision and take ownership of the story—when you’re with a team of people who want to … make magic. When you’ve got those people working alongside you, there’s nothing better. Then watching it in the cinema and seeing some joy or sense of ownership—that’s the best.
Meeting the real ladies this film is based on, I thought this would be a great story we could get the world to see. I’m really doing this especially for the original Sapphires and for the community.
If you could give any career advice to your 21-year-old self, what would it be?
Trust what’s going to happen tomorrow. Don’t question… just trust and go in a bit harder. Also, go home and talk to elders and talk to family to retain knowledge of where you’re from and what’s to come.
What advice would you have for young filmmakers who want to see their projects on the big screen?
Make sure you surround yourself with people who come from a real place — an artistic place. Surround yourself with mentors—good, knowledgeable people you trust.
What would be your ultimate career win if the world were a perfect place? To make an awesome film that will change the world—a major classic that really sticks in people’s hearts and minds. … Maybe a cross between ET and Do the Right Thing.
The Sapphires is now showing in select theaters and will premiere nationwide March 29.