The film concerns the real life story of a group of four young women from an Aboriginal mission in Country NSW (and their Irish-born manager) who entertain the troops during the Vietnam War.
They’re from the Cumeragunga Mission, which is interesting, because that’s also where the great singer, Jimmy Little was born, and they’re Yorta Yorta women, along with Lou Bennett from Tiddas and the opera singer, Deborah Cheetham. There must be something in the water, down there to have produced so many great singers :)
As a story and as a film, it’s one of those classic “rags to riches” stories in many ways, as they unsuccessfully enter a talent contest at a country pub (racism rules heavily), but are eventually recognised for their talent. Judith Lucy plays the owner of the pub, and finally, playing a 60s barmaid in country Australia, I understood where her sometimes odd accent came from. :)
As a story and a film, there’s also lots of wonderful love stories going on. As a story and as a film, I both laughed and cried. Without wishing to provide spoilers, there’s a very sad moment as the story of one of the young girls who was taken away during the period of “Aboriginal assimilation” is re-told; and there’s another very sad moment when it appears as if one of the lead characters in the film is killed.
Deborah Mailman as the eldest sister is AMAZING. She plays the role with such honesty and dignity. She is totally believable. The other actors are good too, and of course, Jessica Mauboy’s singing is brilliant.
Best of all, it’s about the right length. I never found myself thinking, as I do with many films these days, it’s about twenty minutes too long. The film travels along at just the right pace and length.
Honestly, it’s one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time. And it’s refreshing to see such a well-made Australian film, after all those years when many Australian films were quite dismal.
As Molly Meldrum used to say… “do yourself a favour”.