We should have seen it coming.
Iron Butterflies looks at Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014, which was shot down on its way to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam over the airspace of Eastern Ukraine. All 298 lost their lives this day but, while the shock was immediate, the movement to bring justice to those who were responsible was not. It left open the wounds caused by this tragedy, ones that continue to fester as Ukraine deals with the ongoing invasion coming from the ever increasing aggression of Russia. The film explores the ways in which Russia staved off responsibility and how the surrounding countries abetted their lies by not cracking down on their methods and the amount of lies they spread amidst their own people. The result is a film that juxtaposes the investigation and revelation of truth with the feeling of empathy that is expressed in artistic vignettes that transcend the typical news coverage of the destruction that Russia has caused.
The film’s objective approach–which relied on archival footage and audio–helped paint a portrait of what happened that day. Sometimes, that’s done in very literal ways through the cameras that captured military vehicles carrying the missile system and through the artistic impression of young Ukrainians dancing and sitting in meditative spaces in peace. Their peace is shattered by the dark atmosphere created and their censored faces. In these moments, the film shows how their voices are being silenced (and had been) during the investigation into Flight 17’s crash.
The rest of the film takes a look at the dark hilarity of Russia’s propaganda, the lies they spread that create another dimension where the facts are different, including a jet that wasn’t near the plane shot Flight 17 down and the missile system wasn’t near the location where Flight 17 crashed. It’s this expose on alternate information combined with Liubiyi’s purposeful staged artistic scenes that create the power of this documentary that allows the viewer to meditate on what needed to be done to help a country under attack (and one that still is)
Iron Butterflies is now available in theatres across Canada.