EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT tells the epic story of the first contact, encounter, approach, betrayal and, eventually, life-trascending friendship, between Karamakate, an amazonian shaman, last survivor of his people, and two scientists that, over the course of 40 years, travel through the Amazon in search of a sacred plant that can heal them. Inspired by the journals of the first explorers of the Colombian Amazon, Theodor Koch-Grunberg and Richard Evans Schultes.
Embrace of the Serpent (Spanish: El abrazo de la serpiente) is a 2015 internationally co-produced adventure drama film directed by Ciro Guerra. The film won the Art Cinema Award in the Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and was selected as the Colombian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards.
The film tells two stories, taking place in 1909 and 1940, both starring Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman and last survivor of his tribe. He travels with two scientists, German Theodor Koch-Grunberg and American Richard Evans Schultes, to look for the rare yakruna, a sacred plant. The film is loosely inspired by the diaries written by the two scientists during their field work in the Amazon.
Indiewire’s Jessica Kiang awarded the film an A rating, calling it “a soulful, strange and stunning discovery”. She also described the character of Karamakate as “an immaculate portrait of the unfathomable loneliness and crushing survivor’s guilt that comes with being the last of one’s kind”. Jordan Mintzer of The Hollywood Reporter described the film as “a visually mesmerizing exploration of man, nature and the destructive powers of colonialism” and compared it to Miguel Gomes’ Tabu (2012). He also praised the black-and-white cinematography and the sound design which he said “makes the jungle truly come alive”. Justin Chang of Variety gave a positive review of the film. He wrote: “At once blistering and poetic, not just an ethnographic study but also a striking act of cinematic witness…”. About the parallel narrative he wrote it “delivers a fairly comprehensive critique of the destruction of indigenous cultures at the hands of white invaders”
Behind the scenes look at one of the most controversial films of the year, Embrace the Serpent, as the directors of the film go into detail about origin of the discovery of the sacred plants inspired by Amazonian psychotropic medicines Ayahuasca and Charkuna plants, the clash of cultures and the destruction of native Amazonian wisdom and society along the way.
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