Private Project


BUTTERFLY is the delicate story of an Italian teenager who sees her life plan collapse in eight minutes. Raised in one of Naples’ most troubled neighborhoods, Irma focuses on boxing and reaches the Olympics at just 18 years old. Her dramatic defeat there shakes the core of her identity while family tensions, economic strain, and unrealistic dreams complicate her return home. She struggles to reconnect until a new opportunity forces her to decide who she really is. This is a real-life story, but its irresistible protagonist and cinematic storytelling style allow BUTTERFLY to be experienced like a fiction film.

  • Alessandro Cassigoli
    “Butterfly” Directed by Alessandro Cassigoli and Casey Kauffman; produced by Indyca/RaiCinema/2018; 80min.
 "The Things We Keep" Directed by Alessandro Cassigoli and Casey Kauffman; produced by YUZU/arte/Al Jazeera; 2017; 75min.

  • Casey Kauffman
    "The Things We Keep" Directed by Alessandro Cassigoli & Casey Kauffman; Produced by YUZU/arte/Al Jazeera; 2017
; 75min. "Dream on Hold" Directed by Casey Kauffman; 
Produced by Al Jazeera; 2011; 
25min. "Joseph’s Journey" Directed by Casey Kauffman; Produced by Al Jazeera; 2010
; 25min. "Born in Gaza" Directed by Casey Kauffman ; Produced by Al Jazeera; 2010
; 25min.
  • Alessandro Cassigoli
  • Casey Kauffman
  • Guido Iuculano
    "Tutto può succedere" ; TV SERIES; Directed by Lucio Pellegrini, Alessandro Casale; Italy; 2005 . "Questo è il mio paese"; TV SERIES; Directed by Michele Soavi; Italy; 2015 . "Alaska"; Directed by Claudio Cupellini; Italy, France; 2015 . "Caruso"; directed by Stefano Reali; Italy; 2012 . "Una vita tranquilla"; Directed by Claudio Cupellini; Italy; 2010. "I Liceali"; TV SERIES; Italy; 2008 - 2009 . "Lascia perdere Johnny"; Directed by Fabrizio Bentivoglio; Italy; 2007;
  • Michele Fornasero
    AS DIRECTOR: “Smokings” 2014 AS PRODUCER “Samia” by Yasemine Samdereli; Italy, Germany; produced by Indyca, S2R Film . "Happy Winter", by G. Totaro; produced by Indyca, Zenit Arti Audiovisive; Rai Cinema; italy; 2017 . "Butterfly" by Alessandro Cassigoli and Casey Kauffman, produced by Indyca, Rai Cinema, Italy, 2018 . “Drive me Home” by Simone Catania, produced by Inthelfilm, Indyca; Italy; 2018 ” Imprisoned Lullaby” by Rossella Schillaci, Italy, 2016 .
  • Irma Testa
    Key Cast
    "Irma Testa"
  • Lucio Zurlo
    Key Cast
    "Lucio Zurlo"
  • Emanuele Renzini
    Key Cast
    "Emanuele Renzini"
  • Ugo Testa
    Key Cast
    "Ugo Testa"
  • Simona Ascione
    Key Cast
    "Simona Ascione"
  • Anna Cirillo
    Key Cast
    "Anna Cirillo"
  • Biagio Zurlo
    Key Cast
    "Biagio Zurlo"
  • Giuseppe Maio
    Director of Photography
  • Giogiò Franchini
    "Le conseguenze dell'amore" by Paolo Sorrentino; 2004 . "La ragazza del lago" by Andrea Molaioli; 2007 . "Miele" by Valeria Golino; 2013.
  • Alessandro Cassigoli
  • Giorgio Giampà
    - Nominated for a Fenix Award - Sundance Award winner Mexican film "Tiempo Compartido/Time Share" -Nominated for an Italian Golden Globe -In 2017 and in 2019 he received Golden Ciak nominations (Fraulein, Il padre d'Italia, La Profezia dell'Armadillo) . -Awarded for Best Score at Kinotavr Open Russia Film Festival in 2016 (Wake Me Up).
  • Paolo Giuliani
  • Project Title (Original Language):
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 20 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    October 19, 2018
  • Production Budget:
    422,275 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Italian Golden Globe 2019
    Best Documentary FIlm Award
  • Molise Cinema 2019
    Jury Special Mention
  • TRT Film Festival 2019

    Best international Film
  • FIDADOC 2019

    Audience Award
  • Laceno d’Oro 2018

    Audience Award
  • Festa del Cinema di Roma 2018
  • IDFA 2018
  • Hot Docs 2019
  • Annecy Cinema italien 2019

  • DOK.fest 2019
  • Frameline 2019

    United States
Distribution Information
  • Istituto Luce Cinecittà
    Country: Italy
    Rights: All Rights
  • Cat'n'Docs
    Country: Worldwide
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Alessandro Cassigoli, Casey Kauffman

Alessandro Cassigoli and Casey Kauffman started working together in 2015 and have co-directed two feature length films. “The Things We Keep” (France, 2017) was produced by Yuzu Productions with ARTE and Al Jazeera. It premiered at Italy’s Biografilm 2018 and won the Audience Award in the International Competition. Their second feature “Butterfly” (Italy, 2018) was produced by Indyca and Rai Cinema, and premiered at the Festa del Cinema di Roma (Alice nella città). The film was distributed in theaters across Italy by Istituto Luce Cinecittà and participated in international festivals such as IDFA and Hot Docs. In June 2019, “Butterfly” won Italy’s prestigious Golden Globe for Best Documentary Film.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

We first met Irma when she was just 16 years old and were immediately struck by her intelligence and self-awareness. Her story is extraordinary, but we believe the process she goes through can resonate with all of us. What happens when you leave what you know to strive for something bigger? What if you work hard but fail to achieve your goal? Was is worth it? Did your single focus blind you from other parts of your life? How can failure make you face your conflicts and allow for personal growth? Beyond these more universal themes at the heart of the film, are subtexts unique to the characters and their environment. For example, the formation of identity in adolescence, instant stardom and its impact, managing pressure under scrutiny, the role of a mentor, female participation in male dominated sports, and whether sports is an effective way out of poverty. The film follows Irma Testa throughout an extraordinary period of her life: a history making victory, a destabilizing defeat, and a comeback that is hesitant and uncertain. On the bigger level however, the film is primarily about a teenage girl who is trying to come to terms with who she is. The search for identity is the driving force of the film, making Butterfly’s scope both simple and broad at the same time.

This is a documentary film because it follows the real story of a real person without knowing exact outcomes. However, our approach is strictly cinematic and most people watching it will consider it “a movie.” After screenings, we hear many people say: “that wasn’t a documentary, I felt like I was watching a film.” This is because of the filmmaking style. There are no interviews and no voiceover….no external explanations in order to understand the story. Irma’s story is told using scene after scene after scene. This is an extremely difficult and lengthy way to make a documentary, but it is highly effective. It requires 100% access to the subjects but also full participation of the subjects. This is because we get their full advice and input before deciding which parts of their life must be filmed to tell the story. There was a huge amount of work done with Irma and the secondary characters off camera…like directors work with actors. Because the story is told through scenes only, and you cannot string it together afterwards in the edit (by using interviews, voiceover, title cards, etc). We never knew exact outcomes but we had a clear sense of where where the storylines were going. In order to bolster this process, we worked with a fiction screenwriter - not a “story consultant” as often used in the doc world - but a fiction screenwriter. Because we knew the story and characters so well, we could usually imagine the possible outcomes. We discussed those outcomes with our screenwriter and worked in many brainstorming sessions to create well balanced arcs and tight narratives. The process went like this: brainstorm, write, work with Irma and the other characters, shoot, rough edit, brainstorm again, write again, shoot again, edit again… and we did this process over and over again throughout the whole production. The screenwriter was fundamental throughout the production of the film because we worked and re-worked off a treatment/screenplay that was always “alive” and changing as the story developed.