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The Round Table: Black Butterflies
by Karen Pecota

When the press has the opportunity to participate in a round table discussion with filmmakers and principal cast members of their films to debut during the festival run is a favorite at Tribeca Film Festival. The setting is located at the festival headquarters and traditionally has been in a small room where there actually is a big table large enough for everyone involved to sit around. The intimacy is warm and inviting for discussion and the outcome is always different. The dialogue is often fresh and stimulating so no one wants to leave the session when the forty-minute bell rings (just kidding no bell is rung) to indicate to the press it is time to move on and allow the festival guests their privacy.

The feature film in the World Narrative Competition called Black Butterflies was scheduled directly after the first screening for the press. The film’s topic was extremely intense about the story of South African poet Ingrid Jonker and her struggle to justify her voice in a world of unrest. The film was beautifully executed. I was enthralled with the message and wanted to ponder it awhile longer. I was simply thankful for the short walk from the screening theater to the festival headquarter office in order debrief my emotions. The set up for the discussion group was more like a little classroom but it did not hinder the atmosphere to instigate dialogue. To make it fair the PR person for the film allowed each of us to ask questions of the director (Paula van der Oest) and lead female actress (Carice van Houten) in an orderly manner. The round robin format for questioning made its way to me a couple of times but my head was still in the film and I couldn’t think of one intelligent question to ask when it was my turn. It was embarrassing and I felt so bad and even tried to lean into my colleagues while they were talking to jog my creative juices for a question that deemed worthy. At the end of the session I approached the director and apologized for not engaging with a question or two but told her that I was so moved by the film that I just needed to sit and process it before I could enter into a dialogue. I rarely come across a film that has such an effect on me as Black Butterflies; but, sometimes that is just the way it is and one can’t force entrance to a topic that is seriously first worth pondering. I complemented van der Oest on her role as a director and a few other things. I will never forget her response. She appreciated my honesty and noted that my transparency was a nice welcome. She graciously thanked me for my kind words then we chit-chatted a few more minutes while I was allowed to take some photographs.