Film: Michoacán, Where the Butterflies Winter
Experiencing the tens of millions of monarch butterflies that winter in the state of Michoacán, Mexico, is on many an eco-tourist’s bucket list. But the journey to the remote high-altitude sanctuaries is both physically and logistically difficult. Plus, there’s that State Department warning against non-essential travel to Michoacan.
Not to worry. The new Imax film “Flight of the Butterflies” brings the monarchs to us.
The film, which premiered Sept. 24 at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History before a VIP-studded crowd that included Mexican President Felipe Calderon, opens dramatically: Thousands of 3-D monarchs flit and float across the screen in a scene so authentic that the audience physically reached out as if to touch the real thing. And for the next 44 minutes, that feeling of being there never wavered. This is armchair travel at its most engaging.
The movie, produced by SK Films of Toronto, has two complementing and interwoven threads — insect and human — that together make it more than just another expertly produced nature film.
The monarch’s complex life cycle is deftly and beautifully chronicled through the lives of Dana (short for Danaus plexippus, the monarch’s scientific name), her daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter. The several-generation migration cycle, which reaches from Texas to as far north as Canada and then to Mexico, is vividly detailed, from the laying of a single egg to the gathering of millions in Michoacan. When Dana’s “super monarch” granddaughter emerges from her chrysalis, the sight is jaw-dropping. Environmental challenges, such as anti-butterfly farming practices, are addressed but not emphasized: The guilt factor is kept to a minimum.