Young South African poet Ingrid Jonker finds freedom and solace in writing, whenever and wherever she can. Rejected by her father, who works as Minister of Censorship in the Apartheid regime of 1960s South Africa, she struggles to find the warmth of love and of a home. Despite love affairs with many men and her long-standing relationship with the famous writer Jack Cope, no one can give Ingrid what she seeks. It is not until Nelson Mandela reads her poem "The child who was shot dead by soldiers in Nyanga" in his first speech to the South African Parliament that she finally finds widespread recognition.
The life of Ingrid Jonker (1933-1965) is in many ways typical of the lives of countless men and women in Apartheid-era South Africa: privileged whites caught between their prosperous, secure existences and their career- and even life-threatening opposition of Apartheid policies. But while the film has strong political implications, it is above all a deeply affecting account of the universal urge to stand up against injustice, and of a woman's fight to find her voice and follow her destiny. Director Paula van der Oest's feature "Zus & Zo" (2001) was nominated for an Academy Award as best foreign-language film. "Black Butterflies" stars Carice van Houten (Black Book), Liam Cunningham (The Wind that Shakes the Barley) and Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner). In his first speech to the South African Parliament in 1994, Nelson Mandela read Jonker's poem "The Dead Child of Nyanga" and hailed her as one of the greatest poets of South Africa.