Soul Sister, Brown Sugar.

MIFF Opening Night. Best in Years.

So it’s probably no surprise for you to all hear that I love the Melbourne International Film Festival. Every year I get super excited when the festival comes around cause it literally allows me to go nuts and watch 50 odd movies in just 19 short days. Some might call it crazy, I think it’s bloody brilliant.

The thing about the film festival is that unfortunately the Opening Night parties and screenings have lacked a little in previous years. Last year’s The Fairy was a cute little French film, but not an Opening Night crowd pleaser and the after party was not a patch on previous years due to there being a number of different rooms for VIP’s etc which kinda took the fun out of the whole thing as the crowd seemed tiny and the year before that we saw The Wedding Party (formerly Kin) which was unfortunately not a great film. So how excited was I when I discovered the Opening Night film would be The Sapphires and that the party would return from the town hall to its original location at the Regent Ballroom.

And MIFF, good by you, you did not disappoint.

The film itself was a genuine crowd pleaser and I tip my hat the all involved with the film as it’s the first Australian film (excepting Red Dog) in a long time that I think will find a big audience. It’s a story that is undeniably Australian and one that is treated with humour, respect and love by it’s filmmakers. I think the thing that I most enjoyed was that the humour wasn’t overplayed (see numerous Australian comedies) and the film didn’t feel like it alienated its audience like I feel most Australian films do. Most importantly, it had hope. Hope which shone through a story which dealt with war, the stolen generation, lost loved ones, racism and generally a dark time in our past.

The film itself is based on the play of the same name which was written by Tony Briggs whose mother Laurel Robinson was in the actual Sapphires. The real Sapphires were a quartet of Koori women who toured Vietnam during the war to entertain the troops.

I think the wonderful thing about this film in particular is it is a big celebration of the indigenous talent that we have in Australian as the film not only stars four brilliant indigenous actresses in Deborah Mailman, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell and Jessica Mauboy, but also has an outstanding production crew of indigenous talent in director Wayne Blair, screenwriter Tony Briggs and cinematographer Warwick Thornton who directed the critically acclaimed Samson & Delilah a few years back. Throw in the ever-incredible Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd, Bridesmaids) and some toe tapping tunes from the likes of Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and more and you have yourself one hell of an enjoyable film. It’s in theatres next week so make sure you do yourself a favour and check it out!

Shortly after the film was the always fun after party at the Regent Theatre. Complete with celebrity guests and more free alcohol and canapés than you can poke a stick at, the party was one of the best that I have been to in recent years. After a few hours of wandering around, chatting to friends old and new and deciding from a distance whether to ask Matt Preston what he thought of the canapés, the night was capped off by a surprise performance from Jessica Mauboy who belted out some of the tunes from the film.

In short, if this is only the beginning of MIFF 2012 – it is going to be one hell of a ride.

Stay tuned throughout MIFF as I will be blogging all festival to give you an idea on what’s good, bad and inbetween.

Happy MIFFing kids.

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