A colorful, educational and fascinating film was recently unveiled at the Omnimax Theater at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.
The movie "Flight of the Butterflies," by SK Films, continues through the summer at the museum. It chronicles and celebrates the journey of Monarch butterflies and their migration to Mexico for the winter. The butterflies travel from the U.S. and Canada to Mexico and back again.
"Flight of the Butterflies" is based on a true story of Dr. Fred Urquhart, who spent much of his life studying the Monarch butterfly. He spent 40 years in research to discover where their overwintering sites were. Viewers of the film watch as butterfly Dana's (Dana Plexippus') life journey is traced as well as the journeys of three generations of her offspring. The SK Films movie was produced with major support from the Federal Government of Mexico (Environment & Tourism) and the States of México and Michoacán, as well as from Coca-Cola FEMSA and Grupo Bimbo.
Throughout the film, which was first premiered in 2012, beautiful scenes are projected onto the massive screen as viewers are wrapped up in this story of exploration and education. Actors are featured portraying Urquhart, his wife and other key players.
Museum guests watch as Urquhart does his scientific work of researching and tagging butterflies and also marvel as the life of butterflies are taken from egg to caterpillar, chrysalis and finally butterfly.
Viewers are also introduced to the work of Catalina Aguado and her husband Ken Brugger, citizen scientists, who assisted Urquhart in his studies and were the first people to actually discover the overwintering sanctuaries in Mexico at Cerro Pelon in 1975.
During the "Flight of the Butterflies" film debut event recently at Chicago's MSI, Catalina Aguado and Dr. Orley "Chip" Taylor, founder and director of Monarch Watch and professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas, were special guests who attended to talk about the film and the migratory flight of the Monarchs.
Taylor said he was a consultant on the film.
"I worked closely with them and advised them on the various shots," he said. In addition, he offered historical and scientific information on the butterflies.
Taylor said he hopes viewers will walk away from the film more enlightened and more educated about Monarchs, ecology, how what we do affects the overall environment and conservation matters in general.
"When we watch (this film) we get a sense of awe," Taylor said.
Taylor explained there's a diminishing number of Monarchs as well as the diminishing milkweed crop which caterpillars feed on. He urges everyone to help do their part in saving monarchs.
On Taylor's Monarch Watch website (monarchwatch.org), he states:
"Monarch butterfly populations are declining due to loss of habitat. To assure a future for monarchs, conservation and restoration of milkweeds needs to become a national priority."
After the film screening at the museum, Aguado said when she and Ken originally came upon the Monarch site, "it was a quiet experience, almost fearful. There was very little light and they were very still, not much motion in the area."
It was an experience, she said, that left her breathless. She added when they first saw the Monarchs, she wished everyone in the world "could see that sight through my eyes."
Aguado's love of butterflies, she said, took hold when she was a young girl growing up on a ranch in Mexico. She loved to play in nature. "Butterflies of all kinds would gather there," she said. "I would lie on my stomach and watch them."