"Justice? Here? There is no justice.",
This review is from: In the Time/Butterflies (VHS Tape)From 1931 until his assassination in 1960, Rafael Trujillo (El Jefe) was the brutal dictator of the Dominican Republic, remaining in power with the silent acquiescence of a fearful church, the aristocracy, intellectuals, and the press. Based on Julia Alvarez's strong novel of the same name, this film focuses on the role of the Mirabal sisters, known as "las Mariposas" (the Butterflies), in opposing Trujillo's brutal rule. As children living comfortably in the country, the Mirabal sisters had been protected from the political dangers of the city. When three of the four sisters, Minerva (Salma Hayek), Mate (Mia Maestro) and Patria (Lumi Cavazos) decide to go to a convent school in the city, leaving sister Dede (Pilar Padilla) behind, they are exposed for the first time to the realities of Trujillo's rule.
Some years later, Minerva, Mate, and Patria, now attractive young women, gain the unwelcome attention of El Jefe at a dance. When Minerva slaps his face because he fondles her, he retaliates by arresting and torturing her father. Vowing a personal revenge against him, Minerva eventually joins other students who work to foment rebellion--printing leaflets, distributing guns in the countryside, and speaking to women's groups. When Mate and Patria eventually join her, the three become known as Las Mariposas, "the Butterflies." Jailed and tortured when they are caught by Trujillo's army, they and their husbands hope that by their example they will make life better for their children and for their country.
Director Mariano Barroso sacrifices the broad scope and universal themes of the book by concentrating almost exclusively on the personal lives of "las Mariposas," the risks they took, and the tortures they endured. This narrow focus removes the Mirabal sisters from their political context and diminishes the sacrifices of thirty thousand other Dominicans who were executed by Trujillo. Though the four sisters are clearly differentiated in the book and show the important and quite different reasons that people do or do not fight a dictator, here they are virtually indistinguishable from each other, another sacrifice of the broad picture in favor of easier myth-making.
Salma Hayek is gorgeous, even under jailhouse conditions, posing so attractively in her closeups that it is difficult to imagine her as a committed revolutionary. Edward James Olmos, as Trujillo, alternately sneers and smirks but remains mostly an off-screen presence. Several scenes of sadistic violence stir the emotions, but do not provide the catharsis of real tragedy. Though it is admirable that Hollywood chose to memorialize "the Butterflies," it is too bad that the film feels more like a Hollywood production than a memorial to the very real women who made such real sacrifices. Mary Whipple