Wide Open Sky
Michelle Leonard, kids
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…pleasant and positive…
“We don’t really have music and opportunities for singing,” explains eleven-year-old Taylah from Brewarrina in the NSW outback. She’s not alone; most of the children in the state’s remote areas lack access to music education and regular outlets for their vocal abilities. Growing up in Coonamble, Michelle Leonard was once one of them. Now, she’s the artistic director of The Moorambilla Voices Choir, trekking 4,000 kilometres each year, scouring the region for new talent for the annual Moorambilla Festival in her hometown, and trying to give the next generation of kids a chance that they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Even in the often-upbeat realm of music documentaries, it’s a situation bursting with feel-good potential. Wide Open Sky boasts plenty of heart, with its empathetic look at Leonard’s inspiring efforts certain to endear audiences. Throw in the film’s real focal point – its cast of cute primary school-aged kids excited to participate and eager to follow their dreams – and the stage is set for a pleasant and positive viewing experience.
That leaves filmmaker, Lisa Nicol, with an easy job as she cycles between four children’s individual tales, intersperses audition and rehearsal footage, and builds towards the finale’s big concert. It’s a simple approach that lets the content do the talking – or the children do the singing, more accurately. Crisp cinematography, including warmly lit outdoor shots, adds extra sheen, though the real glossiness comes from the confidence boost the likes of Taylah, rugby-mad Khynan, born performer, Mack, and aspiring composer, Opal, receive. There may be little that’s remarkable about the documentary’s construction, but there’s no escaping the infectious spirit of its subjects, the important work of their teacher, and their shared love of music.