The Guardians

(The Guardians)
Ben Crosbie | Documentary

2018 | 56 minutes | Mexico, United States

An indigenous Mexican community and millions of monarch butterflies are under threat of extinction in the ancient forest they call home.


An indigenous Mexican community and millions of monarch butterflies are under threat of extinction in the ancient forest they call home.

The Guardians is a story of human and nature in parallel, told through the perspectives of an indigenous Mexican community and the threatened monarch butterflies they share a forest with. The everyday struggle of Donaciano Ojeda to carve out a viable future is told through the point of view of two main characters: Santos, a charismatic avocado and trout farmer; and Aristeo, a philosophical tree caretaker. Both face enormous obstacles that test their commitment to the forest and to building a sustainable future.

During the course of the film, the threats of community divisions, illegal logging, and agricultural thieves seriously thwart their success. Just as the people struggle to survive in their indigenous forest habitat, so do the monarch butterflies. Twenty years ago, monarchs numbered almost a billion. But the population has steadily declined, hitting a record low 33 million in 2013. Despite a slight uptick in 2014, dangerously low population levels spark concern on both sides of the border, as the monarchs rely on the habitat of three nations as they migrate from Canada to Mexico and back each year. Weaving together the lives of monarch and people, The Guardians asks if humans and nature can coexist without one suffering at the expense of the other.


"With wonderful original music and storytelling, the film captures the heart of community life as families celebrate the Day of the Dead — a day that coincides with the return of the Monarch butterflies. Highly recommended." — T. Root, Video Librarian

"The grandeur and fragility of the monarch butterfly, threatened with extinction, nudges viewers towards a reckoning with the sustainability of life itself in Ben Crosbie and Tessa Moran's gently persuasive documentary." — Jordan Green, Triad City Beat

"Directors Ben Crosbie and Tessa Moran put in the effort to ensure that we as viewers get a good glimpse of what's being fought for and what stands to be lost if their efforts fail: the imagery of the forest is oftentimes breathtaking, clouds of tens of thousands of butterflies hanging from branches like fully bloomed leaves; a forest that remains green in all seasons, unyielding and eternal; and more than that, the children who will one day inherit whatever is left." — V.N. Pryor, Cinapse

"The Guardians primarily refers to the armed men who keep watch over the forest, but the title also resonates with a group of young people learning folk dances, the girls wearing skirts that frill out not unlike the spread of a butterfly's wings; by paying homage to the monarchs, they guard their spirit and heritage." — Pat Padua, Washington City Paper

"[This] lovely documentary chronicles the migration of monarch butterflies and the Mexican farmers who protect their habitat. The flight of the butterflies serves as a backdrop to examine the lives of villagers tasked with curbing the devastating effects of deforestation on the monarchs' habitat." — Matthew Lucas, From the Front Row

Main credits

Crosbie, Ben (film producer)
Crosbie, Ben (film director)
Moran, Tessa (film producer)
Moran, Tessa (film director)

Other credits

Cinematography, Ben Crosbie; editors, Ben Crosbie, Tessa Moran, Gabriel Herrera Torres; music, Joey Burns & John Convertino.

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Margaret Mead Film Festival
San Francisco Green Film Festival
Environmental Film Festival
Banff Mountain Film Festival
Crossroads Film Festival
HumanDOC Film Festival

DIRECTOR: Ben Crosbie

NATIONALITY: Mexico, United States

YEAR: 2018

GENRE: Documentary

LANGUAGE: Spanish; English

COLOR / B&W: Color

GRADE LEVEL: High School, College, Adults



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