Butterfly's Tongue (La Lengua de las Mariposas)

Director: José Luis Cuerda
Screenwriters: Rafael Azcona

Institute History

  • 2000 Sundance Film Festival


An emotional and artistic tour de force, Butterfly’s Tongue is the moving account of a young boy’s coming of age on the eve of the totalitarian sweep across Europe. In what many critics have described as his finest film to date, Jose Luis Cuerda has fashioned a magnificent drama that roots itself in the precious life lessons that shape our subjectivity and a reverence for the individuals who impart them.

In the winter of 1936, Moncho, a terrified eight-year-old, is about to begin school in his small village in Galicia. Having heard rumors that the teachers beat their students, Moncho runs away until his schoolmaster, Don Gregorio, arrives and gently coerces the youngster home. The two quickly forge a bond, and as the buds of spring herald the season’s change, the venerable old man initiates the child into the indelible truths of love and life. A fervent believer in nonacademic study, Don Gregorio removes his classroom to the idylls of the open countryside, where, in awe and wonder, the children experience firsthand nature’s hidden mysteries. But on July 18, the military encroaches, and Moncho’s world of butterflies and idealism is shocked into a paranoid and anguished reality.

Poetic, intelligent, and exquisitely tender, Butterfly’s Tongue is a profound work from a master director. Featuring the enormous talents of screenwriter Rafael Azcona (adapting Manuel Rivas’s short stories) and veteran actor Fernando Fernan Gomez, the film unforgettably evokes human fragility and fallibility in the face of the odious effects of war.

— Rebecca Yeldham

Screening Details

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