Inspired by a true story, The Sapphires celebrates soul music and chronicles the adversity and struggles faced by a quartet of Australian aboriginal singers in the 1960s era.
The mother and aunt of writer Tony Briggs actually toured wartime Vietnam as singers, inspiring him to pen an award-winning stage play about a Koori girl group whose switch to soul music lands the quartet a prestigious gig performing for U.S. troops.
Briggs also co-wrote the script for the crowd-pleasing film — screening at the Toronto International Film Festival — with Keith Thompson. Despite his familial connection and theatre world success with the tale, he had no qualms about making changes and adaptations for the film version, according to star Chris O'Dowd, who plays the talent scout who discovers the singers and propels them to fame.
"There was no preciousness about [the adaptation]," O'Dowd told CBC News.
"Sometimes there can be an ego related to making a film," he admitted, "[but working on The Sapphires] was just an open and easy thing."
The young actresses — Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell — who portray the singers had the chance to meet and spend some time with the members of the real-life singing group during production. That and the strength of the script helped them build complex, emotional performances, they said.
"The whole film embodies the sacrifices you make for dreams, to find happiness," Tapsell said.
"[There are] all the things you've got to do. And finally, when you get there, you will enjoy it. But you've got to learn to enjoy it along the way."
TIFF continues through Sept. 16.