The film ‘Black Butterflies’ puts female faces on climate migration at the Annecy Festival

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The Annecy Festival, the most important animation festival, will be held from June 9 to 15 and three Spanish films stand out: Rock Bottom, by María Trénor, which participates in the official section, El sueño de la sultana, by Isabel Herguera and Mariposas negras, by David Baute, both in the Contrechamp section, where Robot Dreams triumphed last year.

We interviewed David Baute, Canarian filmmaker who has directed the documentaries Éxodo climático, La murga, ópera popular and Ella and artistic director of two festivals in the islands: FICMEC and MiradasDoc, about this long-awaited film that gathers the real testimonies of three women forced to leave their homes due to climate change.

“We understand,” says the director, “that people are a little tired of being bombarded all day long with news about climate change. But I think that, when you put a face to that problem, when you see that a woman has to leave everything, has to abandon her culture, a large part of her family… to end up getting lost in a big city where she lives badly, where she ends up working as a prostitute, where the children end up alone and lying in the streets… I think that does connect with our feelings and can make us consider our daily behavior”.

Because,” he continues, ”with our behavior, with this uncontrolled pollution, we are generating serious problems for many people. Problems that now seem very distant to us, but that will end up affecting us. And we have to start.

Three women who lose everything and are forced to emigrate
The film shows us how climate change impacts on the lives of Tanit, Valeria and Shaila, three women from very different parts of the planet, but with something in common: they all lose everything due to the effect of global warming and are forced to migrate.

The film is based on real testimonies that David collected for his documentary Climate Exodus (2020). “We did research on what was causing climate change in different regions of the world. Starting with Ghoramara, an island in India that has been left under the surface by the rising sea level. We continued with Turkana (Kenya), a town that used to be an orchard where there were rivers and plenty of grass for the animals and now it is a desert where it no longer rains. And the third story took us to St. Martin (Caribbean), a small island where hurricanes are increasingly violent, which has forced many families to leave.”

“We followed three women from those places,” she continues, “who had to leave their homes and their culture, which ends up getting lost in the big cities where they end up going.

The problem is that there was a large part of the story of these women that we couldn’t tell with images,” adds David, ”and that’s why we decided to resort to animation. Our first idea was to combine real images and 2D animation, but we ended up using only animation, which, combined with.

Tanit, Valeria and Shaila
We asked David why, out of all the testimonies they collected, they chose Tanit, Valeria and Shaila. “We did a kind of casting to see which families would be easier to live with and talk to. And, above all, that they would allow themselves to be filmed, because in certain cultures it is not easy.

In the case of Lobuin,” adds David, ”she was a leader within the Turkana people, followed by the other women, and she had the power to decide things in a macho society where she was listened to and respected. In the case of Soma, who lost her harvest due to rising sea levels, she and her mother carried the weight of the family and decided on all matters that had to do with day-to-day life, such as the decision to leave the island of Ghoramara.”

“And in the case of Valeria, in San Martín, she was also the one who opened the door of her house and let us film her children,” adds the filmmaker.

“Many countries do not recognize migrations due to climate change”.
David Baute assures that, being a Canarian, he knows the issue of migrations: “The Canarian people have always been an emigrant people, we all have relatives who have emigrated. Half of my family emigrated to Venezuela because there was an emigration boom there when there was basically no food in the Canary Islands. Those people then sent money to the Canaries and we were able to get ahead.”

With the tourism boom, we are now going through the reverse process,” he continues. Because the Canary Islands have developed a tourist industry that provides a lot of employment, although a bit precarious, but there is a lot of migration that comes here. We are a place of comings and goings”.

But in the cases that we show in the film, these migrations are more complex, because these are people who leave their home, their country, and lose everything,” adds the filmmaker. They can’t go back. There is no turning back. It is a one-way trip. With the serious issue that there are many countries that do not recognize this type of migrants. They recognize migrants who migrate because of armed conflicts, for political reasons… But climate migrants are not recognized in almost any country, so they experience an even greater drama”.

“Traditions and cultures will end up being lost.”
Moreover, with these forced migrations, many small cultures run the risk of disappearing. “This is the case of that small island of Ghoramara, where 50,000 people used to live and right now there are about two or three thousand left in the center of the island, because the rest has been flooded. And those who are left will also have to abandon it in five or ten years’ time.”

And those people,” he continues, ”will end up lost in the middle of big cities like Calcutta, where millions and millions of people live. And it’s a bit the same with the Turkana, who are a larger people, but most of their population has already migrated to Kenya or Nairobi. And their culture ends up being diluted in the big cities.”

“And they will end up losing those cultures, their own languages, their traditions… which shows that the climate issue is not just a warming problem, but that there are equally important underlying problems.”

In fact, David Baute has already lost contact with one of the protagonists of the documentary: “We have lost track of Tanit. We try to keep track of all of them, with production people we have there, but it is very complicated with what I said about them getting lost in the big cities. But we are still trying to locate her because we would love to see her.

David emphasizes that, despite the fact that it is a documentary, the work of the screenwriter, Yaiza Berrocal, has been fundamental: “It is true that we could not contribute much from fiction, but Yaiza is also a novelist and knows very well how to structure the stories. And she has managed to generate a narrative language and a structure so that they are well understood throughout the film. In addition, she has done a lot of research on these three women and what happens in the places where they lived. And then, we were very concerned about the ethical line, to know what we could tell about all the issues with which they were honest with us. And I think Yaiza has succeeded in making us a loudspeaker for the problems that they and other women around the world have.”

After the world premiere in Annecy, David tells us: “The idea is to be able to release the film in Spain the last week of October, which is the week on climate change. But we will release it in October or November for sure”.