At some point in our lives, we are presented with the seemingly nebulous question of “Who am I?”. Whether it’s on the first day of your awfully long literature class, or laid back on your bed—feet on the wall—staring into the empty colors of your ceiling; it’s a question with an answer we spend our lifetime searching for, and sometimes never find. London-based director Ilan Lampl is gracefully exploring this question, which is relatable on the most human level possible, with his new film i, Butterfly—starring the skilled hip-hop dancer Sharifa Butterfly as his muse. “The story features Sharifa questioning her identity as a hip-hop dancer in order to accept herself,” he says, “and find belonging within her dance crew.”
In i, Butterfly, Sharifa is bold. She’s unapologetically black, exceptionally creative, and evidently skilled on the dance floor. However, like the rest of the billions on earth, she is forced to discover herself in new environments. “Who you are now may not be who you are in five years, or five minutes,” she explains, “and subconsciously maybe everyone knows that which is why it’s hard to say this is who I am or this is who you are.”
“I feel like hip-hop just makes sense. There’s a beat, you’ve got to stay on the beat. I think life’s like that. Within that pattern, you can create what you want to create.”
From a young age, Sharifa discovered that dance has been something she’s always been good at. In challenging times, dance brought her comfort and reassurance, and at the same time, it served as an escape from her problems and the troubles of life. At 14, her weakened relationship with her mother led her to move to Liverpool to live with her father for a few years. “Packed my bags at 16, jumped on the train. Running from life..just to keep sane. I needed to get out before my hope faded away.”
Her story shapes itself as a hopeful and down-to-earth narrative. Ilan and Sharifa remind us that we’re all the same as humans, and that’s okay. It’s okay to be fearful of the future and to be bothered by the uncertainty. In i, Butterly, through hip-hop, there are moments of clarity and new-found confidence that make the experience much more enjoyable. Speaking of her first encounters with the dance world, Sharifa says, “No one had any preconceptions of me. Whether they liked my style or not, I liked that I was simply being judged on what they saw on the dance floor more than anything else.” Subsequently, she reflects on the unbreakable family-like bond between themselves as dancers even when they fail to see eye-to-eye or are met with hardship.
In the film, we also get introduced to her energetic crew, Rain Crew, consisting of 20 members including herself. Much like Sharifa mentioned earlier, they relate with one another like family which is visibly evident on camera. “Dance is open to interpretation,” one of her crew members shares, “When you’re able to fully express who you are and what you’ve been through in the past, that’s where your identity lies.”
Dance is a poetic art form that is unique to each person. Embracing your roots as a person is clearly a lesson we are shown in this film, and at the same time, every face in i, Butterfly reiterates the need to also step out of that sometimes and evolve. “I feel like I've evolved a lot but I feel like I’m still evolving,” she says.
i, Butterfly will be premiering on March 10th. To explore more of Ilan Lampl's work, you can visit his website here.
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