Racism in The Sapphires
The strong presence of racism among Australian communities as depicted in the film caused such events, namely the Stolen Generation, to occur. This significant event was a period in late 1800s-1960s where children from both Indigenous, and non-Indigenous (i.e. ‘white’) origins were forcefully taken away from their families as a result of official Australian Government policy. In relation to the film, Gail’s recall of a bitter memory associated with Kay particularly sheds light upon this key historical event.
Gail’s memory is visually introduced in a warm, vibrant atmosphere at the girls’ home, with sounds of joy and laughter rippling through the family. Emotions of satisfaction and pride are clearly depicted on the tearful faces of girls’ mothers as they clutch onto each other tightly in anticipation during the girls’ performance.
A contrast in the current mood takes an abrupt turn, when government vehicles suddenly arrive at the home in search of ‘half Indigenous, half White’ children. Accompanied with dramatic music, the events at this point now move at a fast pace, conveying to the audience a sense of panic as family members yell and scramble away from the government. The memory then progresses to its tragic point, where Kay is taken away during her stay at the hospital. The view is then focused on Kay’s devastated mother as she wails helplessly, begging in vain to the nurse for Kay back.
Soon, Gail’s memory moves forward in time, when a well-dressed Kay is seen telling her Indigenous family upon meeting them, “If you people worked as much as you fished, you could be really rich you know”. Understandably, the audience is perhaps shocked from the unexpected behaviour of Kay towards her family, especially after her family had grieved her loss at the hospital. However, given Kay’s past upbringing, her apparent behaviour seems somewhat pitiful.
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