“Butterfly Vision” is about a female soldier who returns home after months of captivity, and finds out that she is pregnant, having been raped by her prison guard.
Ahead of the film’s Cannes premiere on May 25, DW met Ukrainian director Maksym Nakonechnyi at the festival.
DW: How did you come to tell the story of “Butterfly Vision”?
Maksym Nakonechnyi: Since the very start of the Russian-Ukrainian war back in 2014, my colleagues and I have been trying to get involved and take action as artists and filmmakers. And we were making a lot of films on the topic.
I also had a lot of friends who were actually serving, and many women were among them. So I was just hearing their stories, their experiences.
And then I was also editing a documentary called “Invisible Battalion,” which tells the stories of women veterans and women soldiers. While I was editing it, listening to some phrases and scenes again and again, I got deeply impressed by their perspective.
So it’s a fiction film, but how much of it was inspired by real cases and stories you were hearing, for example while you were editing?
I was deeply impressed by one of the phrases in particular; it was a woman soldier saying that being captured was the scariest thing for her. She didn’t want the Russians to know that she is a woman. She had made a deal with her fellow combatants, asking them to kill her in a situation where she could possibly become a captive.
So, from this initial testimony, we started researching the topic; with my co-writer and then with my main actress, we talked to different participants, witnesses, or victims of war or of war crimes, and we collected their stories. And we were not only collecting the facts, but also observing their mode of survival with such an experience. All that would flow into the story’s details, for example through the acting or the camera work.
The film itself was shot in the Donbas region. How difficult or how dangerous was it to work there?
While we were researching for the production, we visited our soldiers at the actual front line to observe details there; and back then we also had to take some measures just to be safe.
The locations that we chose were not at the actual front line. But the exchange scene in the film was shot in Donbas. We had chosen the location back in 2020, and we were shooting this scene in the beginning of 2021. And that was just about the time of Russia’s first attempt to build up their troops around our borders.
So, when we were preparing to go to the location, we were contacted by the local authorities; who told us that this location was too dangerous and that we had to move a bit further from the border.
So, yeah, that was among the dangers; there was a possibility that the invasion would catch us in Donbas. Read more