Our documentary King of the Butterflies has been nominated for best documentary competition at the Nordisk Panorama Film Festival.
We’re honored that our film “King of the Butterflies” has been nominated for The Best Documentary Award in the Nordisk Panorama main competition. It’s been seven years of hard work with countless collaborations and contributors that have made this film a reality. We’ve put together a collection of thoughts, clips, and images from the making of the 72-minute documentary to celebrate this achievement.
ABOUT THE FILM
KING OF THE BUTTERFLIES is a Documentary about the pain and power of writing. Darryl Francis (55) was wrongfully accused as an accessory to armed robbery and murder in LA as a teenager. Darryl started writing comedy material in prison but crippled by the trauma of his two-decade incarceration (1986-2006) he’s been unable to sit still and write. After ten years of failed attempts, he asks Icelandic friend and filmmaker Olaf to help him and film the journey.
DARRYL AND OLAF
THERE IS A STANDOFF in a damp garage somewhere in Inglewood, Los Angeles. An ex-convict, 55-year-old Darryl Francis, is staring down a broom wearing a baseball cap. In Darryl’s mind, the broom is his 19-year-old self that walked into a hamburger stand in 1986 with a friend. A clerk got killed, and Darryl was in and out of prison for two decades. The standoff is a part of a coaching session where Icelandic filmmaker Olaf de Fleur is helping Darryl to face his past. The goal: To repair Darryl’s cognitive trauma during his incarceration for him to reach his writing ambition.
DARRYL HAD WRITTEN a script in prison called Towtruck. He became a popular joke-teller amongst the guards and inmates. Fresh out of prison, Darryl sold his script through several coincidences. That was a decade ago, and since then, Darryl hasn’t been able to hit a paper with a pencil without an anxiety attack. Being an ex-con with a teardrop under his eye made it impossible to provide for his wife and kids. Life outside the walls proved too demanding, the pressure of freedom too suffocating for Darryl’s charismatic powers to emerge from the dark.
EIGHT YEARS AGO, Icelandic filmmaker Olaf de Fleur wrote and directed a local crime thriller. The film sirened him towards Hollywood, Los Angeles. Someone asked if he needed a driver, and that’s when Olaf met Darryl Francis. For a few years, the two would connect through tragedy and humor — spending days in the car during Olaf’s biannual visits to Hollywood. In 2017 Darryl asked Olaf to help him write. Olaf suggested they’d document the process to keep Darryl accountable - and that’s how the idea for the film was born.
Filming started sporadically in 2015, mainly as a hobby or just a loose idea. Little by little Olaf and Darryl started focusing more and more on his writing. The more Darryl would share his life with Olaf, the more Darryl would come up with ideas for them to film. In 2019, the project received development funding from various resources until the project received a production grant from the Icelandic Film Centre.
Olaf: "I think I applied to every documentary film fund in Europe and many in the US, but the project didn't find support at the time (2018), and I think the project wasn't developed or clear enough at the time. I'm someone who thinks in chaos, or I start ad idea on a hunch, and then I figure it out as I move through it. That process is organic and exciting but not always funding friendly."
TOPIC, THEME & URGENCY
The importance of this film is layered in the following three themes. The urgency of protecting our phsycé in a modern world, the damage of incarceration, and how different backgrounds can contribute rather than divide a connection between two individuals.
The Film KING OF THE BUTTERFLIES is a metaphor for the attack and depletion of our most valuable resource, the quality of our attention and cognitive health. Through social media, clickbait culture, extreme reductionism, ‘fake news’, this attack has evolved into using primal triggers such as guilt, FOMO, and shame to penetrate our daily lives. In the film, this metaphor is played out through the main character trying to rebuild his concentration after traumatic two-decade incarceration in the American prison system. Though the film focuses on creative writing as a way to face this invisible ‘radiation,’ it is vital, in a general sense, to reflect the importance of protecting our cognitive health because the enemy thrives on underestimation.
The Film is also a simple film about the odd-couple friendship between Darryl and the filmmaker, Olaf de Fleur. The rich contrast between the two and their connection is another soft reminder that life works in mysterious ways.