There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
In the opening scene of Butterfly Girl, the film’s 18-year-old subject, Abbie, is sitting in a bar selling merch for her dad’s band. She’s blond, pretty, and at ease. In the next scene, Abbie is on an examination table waiting for a doctor. Here she might be a bit nervous, but it’s also nothing she hasn’t experienced before. Abbie has epidermolysis bullosa, a rare disease that webbed her fingers together, makes her skin sensitive enough to be sloughed off by a gentle rub, and had experts predicting she would die as an infant. Yet because she’s a self-proclaimed “badass,” Abbie faces her illness as if it were a knee scrape. In Cary Bell’s documentary, the teenager is endearing, funny, and ambitious, wanting to cut the parental cord and go off to college. But the question of when or whether she should undergo a second hand surgery—with its subsequent year-plus recovery—weighs her. What’s more important, immediate freedom or lifelong dexterity? This becomes the big question in Butterfly Girl, but the more prevalent theme is Abbie’s unrelenting optimism and acceptance of her condition. Even though some of the treatments she must undergo cause “a shit-ton of pain,” Abbie can help give anyone who’s endured even just the sniffles an attitude adjustment: “I’m not going to feel sorry for myself.”