‘The Guardian Of The Monarch’ Review: Netflix Documentary Is A Combination Of True Crime And Nature

I had no idea what to expect from a documentary with a title like The Guardian of the Monarch. I certainly didn’t expect it to be about monarch butterflies and a man who would do anything to save this beautiful species of insect. And this is a pretty heavy documentary to take on. A lot happens here, and within the span of ninety minutes, director Emiliano Ruprah gives you a lot of information without losing grip on the narrative. Let’s take a closer look. 


What Happens in the Documentary? 

In the Mexican state of Michoacan, there’s this huge butterfly sanctuary run by a local man, Homero Gomez. Environmentalist Homero has given his whole life to saving this particular species of butterfly, creating an environment suitable for them, and helping the insects during their migration from the north to the south. The documentary offers us a lot of scientific knowledge early on, which might seem a bit too much but does come in handy in terms of understanding the gravity of the situation eventually. 

Homero’s greatest concern in life is saving the butterflies, and along with that, the whole environment, and his greatest roadblock is the unfortunate presence of the Mexican underworld in that region. Be it the drug cartels or the illegal loggers, everyone wants a piece of the forest, which potentially harms the butterflies. Through Homero’s own narration, we get to know how he’s been desperately trying to keep all these threats at bay for years. Homero is friends with Governor Silvano Aureoles, but instead of doing something about the situation, Silvano seems to be someone who’s quite indifferent. He might have even made a deal with the devils, but in the documentary, he obviously refuses to admit to anything like that. 


While the first half of the documentary mainly addresses the existence of monarch butterflies in Mexico and the issues they’re facing, it slips into true-crime territory by the second half. One day, Homero just goes missing. He was supposed to come back home from a horse-racing event, which he attended with many esteemed government officials, but he never returned. Strangely enough, the police don’t seem to take Homero’s disappearance that seriously. Things do change when his body is found, after almost two weeks. But the thing here is that the body appears to be a fresh corpse rather than being decomposed. Doesn’t really match the time there, does it? A routine post-mortem happens, but nothing substantial is found—other than Homero showing clear signs of having suffered multiple blows to his head. The authorities declare the cause of the death to be nothing but a freak accident. And apparently, the blows are just a result of Homero’s head hitting something accidentally.

But given the circumstances, Homero’s family—wife, son, and brother—refuse to believe that he died by accident. There’s every chance of him having been murdered by the people who would benefit greatly, if he’s gone. Because Homero has stood like a rock against all the evil people who wanted to harm the forest. Despite the official verdict, the investigation goes on, but after years go by, it doesn’t reach a conclusion. The Guardian of the Monarch ends with the local people remembering what Homero did. They’re actually considering taking up his mantle. There’s more hope: Homero’s son also wants to be like his father and devote his life to saving the monarchs.


Our Thoughts 

The term genre-bending should be quite familiar to you if you’re a movie enthusiast. But this is probably the first time we’re seeing that in documentary filmmaking. The Guardian of the Monarch is definitely about the Monarch butterflies and how to save the species, as much as it is about the mysterious disappearance and possible murder of Homero Gomez, aka the guardian of the butterflies. And it seamlessly juggles between being a very proper nature documentary and a true-crime tale of conspiracy, scheming, and death. 

Given that the investigation into Homero Gomez’s death is still open, the documentary is smart enough to not blame anyone. However, it does boldly name people who might just be involved with Homero’s death. And even though the official report is still stating that Gomez’ death was a mere accident, The Guardian of the Monarch does seem to take the side of the man’s family. I don’t see anything wrong with that either. In fact, considering this is a documentary of grave importance, having a proper conviction is a necessity. Along with focusing on Homero’s death, The Guardian of the Monarch looks into other activists in Mexico who have also died in the recent past. Like in the case of Homero, those were also “accidental.” While we obviously can’t say governor Silvano Aureoles, along with Octavio Ocampo and Karina Alvarado, had something to do with the death of Homero Gomez, a Netflix documentary is bound to scare them if they indeed had.


If we look at the bigger picture, the documentary tells the story of nature versus capitalism. It doesn’t clearly say that the environmental activists in Mexico are falling dead one after another because of drug cartels and illegal businesses, but you can clearly read between the lines here. I’m not sure whether The Guardian of the Monarch will eventually become a rage or not, but it might just receive some threats from some very powerful people from the land of Mexico. It might also ensure better security and protection for Mexico’s environmental activists in the future. In conclusion, this documentary is both a wake-up call and an urge to come forward and do something about the issue at hand. The Monarchs are in danger, and they need to be saved now that they’ve lost their guardian. Also, with the amount of forest considerably going down in Mexico, someone needs to put a full stop to that. It was very important for the world to know about Homero’s and take inspiration from his work. I believe The Guardian of the Monarch has managed to achieve that.

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Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra likes to talk about movies, music, photography, food, and football. He has a government job to get by, but all those other things are what keep him going.

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