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Black Butterflies (2011)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama  |  31 March 2011 (Netherlands)
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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 1,592 users   Metascore: 66/100
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In apartheid-torn South Africa, poet Ingrid Jonker struggles tragically in search of love and a sense of home.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Graham Clarke ...
Uys Krige
Eugene Maritz
Anna Jonker
Ceridwen Morris ...
Jan Rabie
Waldemar Schultz ...
Etienne le Roux
Tarryn Page ...
Louis Pretorius ...
Mike Loots
Damon Berry ...
Pieter Venter
Martinus Van Der Berg ...
Marius Schoon (as Marthinus Van den Berg)
Florence Masebe ...
Jennifer Steyn ...
Lucille Jonker (Lulu)


She searched for a home, she searched for love. Confronted by Apartheid and a father who was Minister of censorship. With men like Jack Cope and Andre Brink she found much love, but no home. In his first speech to the South African Parliament Nelson Mandela read her poem "The Dead Child of Nyanga" and addresses her as one of the finest poets of South Africa. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Her words united a whole continent. [Scandinavian DVD.]




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Release Date:

31 March 2011 (Netherlands)  »

Also Known As:

Borboletas Negras  »

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Featured in De wereld draait door: Episode #6.66 (2010) See more »

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User Reviews

Finding the Essence of Ingrid Jonker
8 April 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

BLACK BUTTERFLIES is a biographical drama based on the life of Ingrid Jonker. For those who are unfamiliar with this poet the following description my aid in the appreciation of this film: 'Ingrid Jonker (19 September 1933 - 19 July 1965) was a South African poet. Although she wrote in Afrikaans, her poems have been widely translated into other languages. Ingrid Jonker has reached iconic status in South Africa and is often called the South African Sylvia Plath, owing to the intensity of her work and the tragic course of her turbulent life. Her work has also been compared to that of Anne Sexton.' Greg Latter has written the screenplay that attempts to give us all the facets of this enigmatic personality and the film is directed by Paula van der Oest. It is obviously an act of love.

We meet Ingrid and her sister Anna as children, poor, without shoes, and taken to the home of their Apartheid father Abraham Jonker (Rutger Hauer) the Minister of Censorship for the parliament of South Africa. As Ingrid (Carice van Houten) matures she becomes a beautiful, but impetuous young poet, feeling abandoned, blaming others, promiscuous, escaping in excessive drinking too much in order to feel safe and able to cope, and becoming overwhelmed by conflicting emotions, which characterize some common personality disorders. At her father's demand she married Pieter, has a daughter by him, and leaves him because she feels trapped. While swimming in the ocean she nearly drowns but is saved by writer Jack Cope (Liam Cunningham) - this act results in a love relationship and despite Jack's decaying marriage they plan to live together. They both support the young South African poet Nkos (Thamsanqua Mbongo) and aid his escape form South Africa to Europe in hopes of finding freedom to write. Ingrid's and Jack's relationship is passionate and stormy: Ingrid has affairs simply because she has the freedom of mind to do so, and the affair with one Eugene Maritz (Nicholas Pauling), a married man, drives Jack away. Ingrid aborts the child she conceived with Jack (Jack does not know this) and eventually does the same with a child conceived with Eugene. All the while Ingrid is suffering form her inner demons but at the same time becoming more aware of the cruelty of Apartheid. Her writings reflect these feelings and are censored by her father. Yet her greatest collection of poems about the Apartheid are published despite her father's wishes and her father disowns her for being a wasted 'slut.' Ingrid's increasingly bizarre behavior results in several psychiatric hospitalizations and suicide attempts and she goes to Paris where she is treated with electroconvulsive therapy. The treatment calms her but robs her of the ability to write poetry and during the night of 19 July 1965, Jonker went to the beach at Three Anchor Bay in Cape Town where she walked into the sea and committed suicide by drowning.

Carice van Houten, Liam Cunningham, and Rutger Hauer offer brilliant performances and the support cast is strong - Candice D'Arcy as Ingrid's sister Anna, Grant Swanby as Jan Rabie, and Graham Clarke as Jack's closest mate Uys Krige. During the film's credits we hear Nelson Mandela reading Ingrid's prize winning poem 'The Dead Child of Nyanga', probably the most important poem to influence the end of Apartheid.

She searched for a home, she searched for love. Confronted by Apartheid and a father who was Minister of censorship. With men like Jack Cope and Andre Brink she found much love, but no home. In his first speech to the South African Parliament Nelson Mandela read her poem "The Dead Child of Nyanga" and addresses her as one of the finest poets of South Africa. The child is not dead The child lifts his fists against his mother Who shouts Afrika ! shouts the breath Of freedom and the veld In the locations of the cordoned heart

The child lifts his fists against his father in the march of the generations who shouts Afrika ! shout the breath of righteousness and blood i n the streets of his embattled pride

The child is not dead not at Langa nor at Nyanga not at Orlando nor at Sharpeville nor at the police station at Philippi where he lies with a bullet through his brain

The child is the dark shadow of the soldiers on guard with rifles Saracens and batons the child is present at all assemblies and law-givings the child peers through the windows of houses and into the hearts of mothers this child who just wanted to play in the sun at Nyanga is everywhere the child grown to a man treks through all Africa

the child grown into a giant journeys through the whole world Without a pass

This is a courageous and deeply moving film about a great poet. Grady Harp, April 12

10 of 23 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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