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The Song of the Butterflies (El canto de las mariposas) directed by Núria Frigola Torrent
The Song of the Butterflies (El canto de las mariposas) directed by Núria Frigola Torrent

Catalan-Peruvian filmmaker Núria Frigola Torrent’s documentary, The Song of the Butterflies (El canto de las mariposas), spotlighting indigenous histories of storytelling in the Peruvian Amazon, premieres on PBS as part of POV’s 34th season.

The film will premiere Monday, August 30, 2021 on PBS at 10 p.m. ET and will also be available to stream for free at pov.org until October 29, 2021. The Song of the Butterflies is Frigola Torrent’s first feature as director after producing Peruvian filmmaker Ernesto Cabellos’ Daughter of the Lake in 2015.

Winner of the Best Ibero-American Film award at the Guadalajara International Film Festival in 2020, and an official selection at the Havana Film Festival and the Seattle International Film Festival, The Song of the Butterflies spotlights indigenous histories of storytelling and processes of collective memory, trauma, and healing in the Peruvian Amazon.

A nuanced depiction of contemporary indigenous life, Frigola Torrent’s debut documentary follows Rember Yahuarcani, an Indigenous painter from the White Heron clan of the Uitoto Nation in Peru. Rember left home to pursue a successful career in Lima, but when he finds himself in a creative rut, he returns home to his Amazonian community of Pebas to visit his father, a painter, and his mother, a sculptor. Through the stories and dreams of his parents and his grandmother, he confronts the horrors his community faced as a result of the rubber boom in Peru, immersing himself in the past so that he can rediscover his own creativity.

“We sail all our lives between the origin and the world, just to find ourselves” said director Núria Frigola Torrent. “The Song of the Butterflies is an invitation to navigate this journey and allow the audience to plunge into their own identities. It’s also an exercise in collective memory, to remember what happened one hundred years ago to the indigenous people from Amazonia, which is still echoing in the resistance of their descendants like Rember and his family.”

Tracing his route back to his home village and then on to his grandmother’s place of birth, now separated from his parents’ community by the border of present-day Colombia, the documentary quietly follows as Rember comes to terms with the atrocities to which his ancestors were subjected at the hands of European colonizers and extractivists as they tore through the Amazon basin in search of rubber at the turn of the 20th century. Evoking indigenous cosmologies that center the role of the natural world in one’s lived experience, Rember communes with both the spirit of his grandmother and the creatures of the Amazon to carry on his family’s tradition of visual storytelling — an act of both personal and communal healing.

Watch the trailer for The Song of the Butterflies (El canto de las mariposas).

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