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Joslyn Rose Lyons’ new film ‘Butterfly Boxing’ is a festival hit

Grappling with weighty themes can be a daunting task for most filmmakers, but Joslyn Rose Lyons is not most filmmakers. She manages to juggle themes of corruption, gentrification, love, and self-worth in a scintillating and satisfying way in her latest film, Butterfly Boxing, which has been nominated for a slew of different awards in festivals throughout the country.

Butterfly Boxing is about a woman named Rose who sets aside her dreams of becoming a photographer to run her family’s business. When rent skyrockets as a result of greedy developers, however, she must put her faith in her landlord Amari and his brother Cash, with the latter agreeing to a boxing match that could effectively wipe out their debts. Things build to an emotionally devastating climax that we won’t spoil here (for obvious reasons).

Lyons, whose previous films include Frozen Hearts (2015) and Looking Glass (2020), approaches the material with a magical realism slant. While much of the plot takes place within a grounded world, the director’s approach to the material gives it a slightly dreamlike feel, which allows the viewer to process daily stresses from a different perspective. It may be jarring at first, but the creative gamble pays off, resulting in Lyons’s most assured and distinct release to date.

It doesn’t hurt that Butterfly Boxing is punctuated by some truly spectacular performances. Hill Harper and J. Alphonse Nicholson brings so much earnestness and soulfulness to their characters that it’s difficult to imagine anyone else playing them. The magic realism of the film gives it a formal distinction from so many others that cover similar ground, but it’s the two main performances that help to ground it in an emotionally familiar place.

Butterfly Boxing not only depicts an important story in front of the camera, but given the diverse crew of people who put it together behind the camera, its creation is equally important. Lyons shed some light on the film’s production in an official press release:

“I’m grateful to have worked with such an amazing team”, she wrote. “Our cast and crew on Butterfly Boxing were incredible, and having an almost entirely women-led production team was powerful. It’s a gift to be able to work so closely with friends. And I’m honored to have Hill Harper and J. Alphonse Nicholson as part of the executive producing team. It’s been an inspiring process and project.” 

In addition to positive reviews, Butterfly Boxing has been nominated for Best Ensemble and Best Director (Short) at the Festigious Film Festival, for Honorable Mention, Best Short Film, Best Director and Best Actors at TopShorts, and for Best Short, Best Director, and Best Actor at the 7th edition of LA Independent Women Film Awards. 

Suffice to say, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the reach of this film and the emotional impact it has on all who see it. 

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