Rockhampton's Wayne Blair unearths a true Aussie gem

Rhys Muldoon and Wayne Blair at the opening night of The Sapphires.
Rhys Muldoon and Wayne Blair at the opening night of The Sapphires. Chris Wills

FILMMAKER Wayne Blair has lots to crow about since his flick about four Aboriginal singers The Sapphires received a standing ovation at Cannes.

Back in May last year, as he waited to see The Sapphires in its official selection screening at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, director Wayne joked that he hoped to be "the rooster" just for one night.

"It's a privilege … it's a really good place to be … but as my old man says 'one minute the rooster, the next minute the feather duster'," he told an interviewer from ABC Arts.

Since then, the Rockhampton-raised talent has had plenty to cock-a-doodle-do about.

A 10-minute standing ovation at Cannes was followed by enthusiastic reactions at other major film festivals including San Diego, Toronto, Aspen, London, Savannah, Twin Cities, Hawaii, Telluride, Austin, Mumbai, Napa Valley, Milwaukee, Fort Lauderdale and Philadelphia.

Adding to this success, this week the film scooped six AACTA Awards including best film and direction.

By early September The Sapphires had become only the fifth Australian movie in the previous five years to gross more than $10million at the local box office.

It was nearing $15million by October and will become a major money spinner with international screenings and DVD and soundtrack sales, especially since it is promoted worldwide by Hollywood tycoon Harvey Weinstein.

Starring Irish actor Chris O'Dowd of Bridesmaids fame, as well as Aussie stars Deborah Mailman and Jessica Mauboy, The Sapphires is set in the late 1960s.

Based on a true story and adapted from a stage play by Tony Briggs, the comedy-drama-musical follows the exploits of four Aboriginal singers, all the way from a local talent contest to war-torn Vietnam and back.

At the same time The Sapphires was shining brightly at the box office across Australia, there was also plenty of radiated warmth when Wayne presented a premiere screening in his home town of Rockhampton.

The CQUniversity business graduate was applauded by a packed audience of family members, friends and well-wishers as he was introduced by Aussie actor Rhys Muldoon, who appears in the film.

Wayne noted that there were fewer photographers present than when the movie opened at the Cannes Film Festival, but he had enjoyed the experience all the same.

"It's the best feeling to bring it (the film) home where people are so proud of you.

"This film is a beautiful one for all of us, especially for the four young black women (Mailman, Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell) who get to be seen as heroes in posters all around the country."

As part of the homecoming event, Wayne gave a special thanks to his dad for teaching him about discipline and to his mum for having such a great amount of heart.

Beyond The Sapphires, Wayne has plenty on his plate, including a directorial credit for ABC TV's Redfern Now mini-series, which screened towards the end of 2012.


He is writing an episode for the second series that will be filmed later this year. Redfern Now tells stories of six inner-city households whose lives are changed by a seemingly insignificant incident.

Wayne has signed to be one of the directors on the new ABC TV drama series Gods of Wheat Street, currently shooting in northern NSW.

He is also one of Variety magazine's 10 directors to watch in 2013.

You can read a candid interview with Wayne Blair in the latest edition of CQUniversity's Be magazine online. Be magazine is giving readers the chance to win one of three DVDs of The Sapphires. To find out how you could win this great prize, simply read Be online.

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