Float like a Butterfly: Film about Irish Traveller girl boxer wins in Toronto

“In Ireland, to have a young female Irish Traveller at the centre of a film ... is unthinkable”

Float like a Butterfly, an Irish film concerning a Traveller girl who idealises Mohammad Ali, has won a major award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The FIPRESCI Prize for the Discovery Programme is a major coup for any independent film.

"We couldn't have wished for an audience more open to opening their hearts," the Irish writer-director Carmel Winters said on Sunday night.

It has been an eventful week for the Cork woman.


At the screening on Friday afternoon, she told the audience that, just days earlier, she had married her production designer Toma McCullim at Toronto City Hall.

Beginning in the 1960s, the film features a breakout performance from young Hazel Doupe as Frances, a Traveller who, in the opening scenes, sees her mother die and her father dragged off to prison.

When her father eventually returns, they set out on a road trip that reveals truths about the place of Travellers in contemporaneous Irish society.

"In Ireland, to have a young female Irish Traveller at the centre of a film, where she is a champion – not a victim – of her destiny is unthinkable for most people," Winters told the Seventh Row website. "It's film as magic, making the impossible possible. I wanted to create an image of the future as if it has already happened."

Float Like a Butterfly is produced by Martina Niland for Port Films and David Collins for Samson Films, with the support of Screen Ireland.

Peter Farrelly's Green Book, a dark horse at the festival's beginning, won the increasingly significant Grolsch People's Choice Award.

Recent winners have included such Oscar contenders as La La Land, 12 Years a Slave and Lenny Abrahamson's Room.

Farrelly's film stars Mahershala Ali as an African-American concert pianist being driven about the American South by a rough-hewn Viggo Mortensen.

It is now almost certain to secure a best picture nomination alongside Barry Jenkins's If Beale Street Could Talk and Alfonso Cuaron's Roma, runners up for the award.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist