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Despite striking turns in such noteworthy World War II dramas as Paul Verhoeven's Black Book and Bryan Singer's Valkyrie, Dutch actress Carice van Houten has yet to break through Stateside in a major way. But those of you who were captivated by van Houten's eye-catching role as a charismatic necromancer in the underwhelming medieval drama Black Death may be eager to catch van Houten in her latest effort, the bittersweet biopic Black Butterflies. Here van Houten portrays Ingrid Jonker, a poet often referred to as the South African Sylvia Plath because of the tender yet brutal nature of her verse and her self-destructive compulsions. Yet Jonker's story is more than the story of a brilliant poet, but the story of a movement.
Her father was a political conservative who supported the South African government's established racial segregation and censorship legislation, but Jonker not only privately rejected her father's apartheid politics but publicly spoke out against them through her work, most notably in her heralded poetry collection Smoke and Ochre. As Nelson Mandela states in the trailer below:
"She was both a poet and a South African. In the midst of despair, she celebrated hope. Confronted by death, she asserted the beauty of life. Here name is Ingrid Jonker."
Black Butterflies focuses on Jonker's strained relationship with her father, played with a gripping brilliance by Rutger Hauer, as well as her tumultuous romance with novelist Jack Cope (Liam Cunningham). The drama drew praise last spring at the Tribeca Film Festival, and rightly earned van Houten the festival's Best Actress award for her fearless and devastating portrayal of the complicated Afrikaner poet.
Black Butterflies will be available nationwide On Demand beginning February 24th, with a theatrical release to follow in NY on March 2nd.