Some of the best films are the ones that only accidentally hit your radar and this seemingly simple documentary about singing children turns out to be a delightfully inspiring story about fitting in and finding confidence in yourself.
Filled with delightful characters, passion, excitement and enormous heart, Wide Open Sky is the winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Sydney Film Festival and is the kind of documentary that will leave you singing it’s praises.
Every year, Michelle Leonard travels more than 4,000km through remote rural towns in NSW. She auditions children for a youth choir in the heart of sports-driven communities where Arts are often overlooked or ignored. The chosen children are often sponsored to attend the choir camp where they make new friendships with like-minded, musically-gifted kids, and discover that they are not alone in their dreams and hopes.
Leonard trains her wards hard, but has such a natural gift to connect with her young pupils that her inspiration pours from the screen as she pushes them to reach their potential. They learn contemporary and complex songs, despite their young age, and Leonard always commissions new works by young Australia composers to further inspire the children.
Wide Open Sky is the name of the originally-commissioned song in the year this documentary was filmed. The film not only follows Michelle’s extraordinary annual efforts to change young lives, but it hones in on several of the participants too, letting us get to know them and their families. Add loveable personalities like camp manager, Dot, blossoming boy’s youth leader, Justin, and composer Alice, and the story has enough feel-good fun to make you ache with pride.
In the 10 year history of the Moorambilla Voices Regional Choir, Michelle Leonard has provided over 2,000 children the rare opportunity to explore their passion for music and song. The results are as impressive as her commitment to continue doing what she does best, and the stories told between the credits give hope and life to entire rural communities.
Must-see viewing for anyone who cares about our next generation’s success.
Extra featrues on the DVD release of Wide Open Sky includes audio commentaries and outtakes.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 9
Wide Open Sky will be released on DVD and Digital from 17 August 2016.