EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT (Columbia, 2016)


embrace Greetings again from the darkness. Breathtaking black & white photography takes us on parallel scientific expeditions down the Amazon River, with stories inspired by the travel journals of Theodor Koch Grunberg (1872-1924) and Richard Evans Schultes (1915-2001).  It’s the first ever Oscar nomination (Best Foreign Language Film) for Columbia, and director Ciro Guerra’s film certainly deserves any and all acclaim.

The common link between the two expeditions is an Amazon Shaman named Karamakate. A young and proud Karamakate (Nilbio Torres) acts as a guide in the early 1900’s for Theo (Jan Bijvoet), who is already quite ill when we first see his travel guide Manduca (Yauenky Migue) dragging him from the canoe. 30 plus years later, Evan (Brionne Davis) finds an older and wiser Karamakate (Antonio Bolivar), and the two head down the river on much the same route as the decades earlier expedition. Supposedly both trips were a search for the sacred and rare healing plant called Yakruna.

David Gallego’s cinematography is absolutely gorgeous throughout, and adds a dimension to the journeys as we see first-hand the sociological and biological destruction caused by colonialism and the rubber barons. The lost/forgotten cultures are reason enough for the natives to distrust white men, yet the mysticism and pride of the indigenous tribes are fascinating.

The character of Karamakate is a pleasure to get to know, and the film has a great deal to say … and does so while being a visual stunning experience.

watch the trailer:

 

 

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