Watch Son of Monarchs: Virtual Screening and Talk-Back Event

Written by: The Exchange

From writer/director Alexis Gambis comes the poetic Sundance award-winning film, Son of Monarchs. Tracing the journey of a Mexican butterfly biologist as he travels from New York to his hometown nestled in the majestic butterfly forests of Michoacán, the film deftly explores issues of identity, migration, and transfiguration. Forced to confront past traumas, sparking a personal and spiritual metamorphosis, he gradually uncovers the fluid boundaries that unite past and present and all living things. Join us for a conversation with the filmmaker to explore this multilayered portrait of a scientist’s growth and self-discovery. The talk-back will also feature biologist Nipam Patel and virologist Elodie Ghedin, both of whom served as science consultants for the film, moderated by Carla Easter from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

After you RSVP, starting on Sunday, October 24, we will send you directions with a link to view the film. Screening links are limited! Only the first 500 people to click on the link will be able to view the film. Full release on HBO Max is scheduled for November 2.


Alexis Gambis is a French-Venezuelan filmmaker and biologist. His films combine documentary and fiction, often embracing animal perspectives and experimenting with new forms of scientific storytelling. His second feature, Son of Monarchs delves into issues of identity, (im)migration and evolution. The Mexican-American narrative premiered at Sundance in 2021 in the NEXT category and was awarded the Sloan Feature Film Prize. It received the Grand Jury Prize of the New American Competition at the 2021 Seattle International Film Festival. Screen Daily called the film a “a visually flamboyant film…a daring mosaic which floats like a butterfly.”

Elodie Ghedin holds an affiliation with New York University where she was previously Director of the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology and Professor of Biology and Global Public Health until 2020. Elodie obtained her BSc and PhD from McGill University (Montreal, Canada). She is a MacArthur Foundation Fellow (2011), a Kavli Frontier of Science Fellow (2012), and an American Academy of Microbiology Fellow (2017).

Nipam H. Patel is Director of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and a Professor at the University of Chicago. He joined the MBL in 2018 from University of California, Berkeley. Patel grew up in El Paso, Texas, and received an A.B. from Princeton and a Ph.D. from Stanford. He is a developmental biologist who is interested in the changes that have occurred during evolution to generate animal diversity. His lab works with the crustacean, Parhyale, to study the evolutionary diversification of appendage patterning. The lab also investigates the cellular and genetic basis for structural coloration and transparency in butterflies and moths.


Carla Easter is the assistant director for Education, Outreach, and Visitor Experience at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Formerly, she served as chief of the Education and Community Involvement Branch at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). Before joining NHGRI, Carla directed the outreach office for Washington University School of Medicine’s Genome Sequencing Center and was a research associate in the Department of Education at Washington University. She earned her bachelor’s degree in microbiology from the University of California, Los Angeles and her doctoral degree in biology with an emphasis on molecular genetics from the University of California, San Diego.

The statements and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the event participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for this event or of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.