Family life in all its complicated and humble glory is the heart of Mahdi Zamanpour Kiasari’s film. Butterfly follows Zainab, an indomitable young woman, as she goes about daily routines on her family’s farmstead in rural Iran.
When Zainab was only seven months old, her father became paraplegic after he fell from a tree and suffered a severe spinal cord injury. Zainab and her mother share the work of caring for her father, assisting with everything from clipping his toenails to spotting him during his weight-lifting regime. The family spends plenty of time joking around and indulging in small pleasures like gossip and home-cooked meals. Of the couple’s eleven adult children (all married with families of their own), Zainab is the last one living at home with her parents. Although her parents worry that she’ll be left alone when they’re gone, marriage holds little appeal for Zainab. “When suitors come, I say to them, my parents should live with me. And they never come back again!” she laughs. For Zainab, grooming her horse, chopping firewood, and jogging throughout the countryside offer something far more interesting than the confines of married life, namely freedom in all its siren power.
The film is suffused with the sensual pleasures of the natural world, from the movement of grass, to the luscious greens and browns of the countryside that change with the seasons. The film’s soundscape is especially palpable — croaking frogs, falling water, and the wind moving through the trees. The result is a rich portrait that delicately illustrates how patience, loyalty, sacrifice, and joy are the best tools to cope with life’s challenges. -SC