Just “wow” is all I really need to say about WIDE OPEN SKY. Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Sydney Film Festival, WIDE OPEN SKY is out today at art-house cinemas, if I had kids I would force them watch this one during the holidays, not only will they eventually love it but you, as an adult, will cry some tears of joy and happiness. It is released from the fine folks at Entertainment One Australia and runs for 78mins. If you want to know more about Michelle Leonard and the Moorambilla Voices or if you have rural children that want to sing and have the time of their lives then hit up their website HERE.
BY JASON KING
WIDE OPEN SKY is a big film of joy and love, dedication and passion, and of course…………singing. Heart-warming tales of some beautiful and individual kids not yet stomped on by life and adulthood, and a story of one lady, a hero to the children who goes above and beyond in this world for the love of music and children, providing opportunity and dedication who for the love of Australia needs an Australian of the Year Award!
Michelle travels over 4,000 km ANNUALLY to recruit child choir members, she tries to select candidates who “will take positive risks and have a burning desire to express themselves.” All of these children are selected from rural areas with limited opportunities and no matter what the financial levels of the families if the children are good and want the position with a passion then she will fund raise money to get them to the choir camp and event.
WIDE OPEN SKY takes us into the lives of Kyh, Mack, Opal and Taylah, four brave and hopeful primary school children who travel far from home to music camp to prepare for the choir’s big concert. They have just three days to learn a demanding repertoire, the kids are a brilliant mix of Australian multiculturalism with all the kids being so different, so innocent and naive to the world and how it will effect them but all sharing one thing in common that ignores all their differences. Kyh is the little guy above, a footy mad kid who can sing well, he loves singing and it is one thing you notice in the movie, every kid just loves and becomes free when they are singing and as they all do it together the choir camp is one of the best things in their little lives.
Mack will never play football, his talents are all about singing, dancing and entertainment and he is so camp and happy and free it made me happy sad, I wish I could have been more like him as a child. A born entertainer who will end up dancing and singing on Broadway, trust me, he most definitely will. His life changed the moment he saw Billy Elliot and if he was training a few years earlier he could have been a Billy.
Opal lives in Grawin, where there are three pubs and a general store. She sings between the trees, her father tells us. She also harbours a talent for songwriting. Then there is Taylah, a little RnB diva at the age of about twelve, who is talented and incredibly passionate with oft times too much confidence who learns the love of a more relaxed choral style of singing.
The choir camp is usually the first time these kids go away without their parents and they are hundreds of kilometres away from home without anyone they know. Bonds and friendships are quickly formed and this choir event is HUGE, ending in a large performance in front of friends and family and I would bet a little wager, some talent scouts.
It is a mammoth task for our hero, our adult among the flock of youngsters, Michelle Leonard, a woman that really doesn’t have to do this and makes very little money but dedicates her life to travelling and searching and training these kids, not only is there the endless driving and auditioning there is also the less than enjoyable task of fundraising to cover the costs and money needed to aid these novice choralists on their journey. Aiding Michelle is a barrage of volunteers, ex-students and some hilarious country ladies and gents that are there to support the cause.
It is a short documentary and a much loved one for me, it is a brilliant heart string-playing cockle-warmer. The personalities of the children many a laugh and while the choir camp is a lot of fun it is also a lot of hard work, draining them all to the core, but the results are magic and I am not ashamed to say it, I shed quite a few tears of love for WIDE OPEN SKY, it is easy to see why it won the audience award at Sydney Film Festival. Now get out there and support and bloody beaut Aussie documentary and find a non-Hollywood movie for 2016 that you will fall in love with.
Jason King is the owner and editor of Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 25yrs. He loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. All the social media links to the right and up will allow you to abuse, troll or stalk him :).
** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.