A film by Ciro Guerra
2015/ Columbia/ 125 minutes /
The ravages of colonialism cast a dark pall over the stunning South American landscape in “Embrace of the Serpent,” the latest visual astonishment from the gifted Colombian writer-director Ciro Guerra. Charting two parallel journeys deep into the Amazon, each one undertaken by a European explorer and a local shaman, this bifurcated narrative delivers a fairly comprehensive critique of the destruction of indigenous cultures at the hands of white invaders.
“Impossible to describe in words its beauty and splendor,” the Dutch explorer Theodor von Martins wrote of the Colombian Amazon in 1909, and no words are needed in light of David Gallego’s majestic lensing, his widescreen compositions capturing a lush rainforest setting in sharp, exquisitely subtle shades of monochrome.
The film’s central figure is A young shaman named Karamakate, last survivor of the Cohiuano, an Amazonian tribe killed off by the rubber barons. He is no innocent, noble savage but an angry, morally complex individual with a heart full of grief. It’s sometime during the early 1900s . Theo a German explorer with his local guide is searching for the Yakuna, an exceedingly rare flower that could heal him of his sickness with the help of Karamakate.
Every so often, the film jumps 40 years into the future to join a rugged American named Evan as he enlists an older Karamakate to retrace his steps on a hunt for the same flower plant — snaking together these parallel journeys into a mesmeric call and response. Towards the end the film moves to mystical higher ground, as abhorrence expands into awe. Shot in dreamy black and white, spoken in nine separate languages, and told with an unerring devotion to authenticity this film is a fitting requiem for the ravages of white hegemony (source: Internet)
Colombian filmmaker Ciro Guerra wove magical realism into stories of his native country and its people into a trio of award-winning features, including the Oscar-nominated "Embrace of the Serpent" (2015). Born February 6, 1981 in the town of Rio de Oro, Colombia, Guerra studied film and television at the National University of Colombia before directing a trio of shorts - the live action "Silence" (1998) and "Alma" (2001) and the animated short "Intento" (2002) - and "Documental Siniestro: Jairo Pinilla, Cineasta" ("Sinister Documentary: Jairo Pinilla, Filmmaker," 1999), which focused on the eponymous Colombian cult director.
In 2004, Guerra released his first feature-length directorial effort, "Wandering Shadows," a drama about a disabled man whose Dickensian life in a Bogota barrio is improved by a mysterious stranger. "Shadows" won the Films in Progress award from the San Sebastian International Film Festival, and paved the way for his second feature, "Los viajes del viento" ("The Wind Journeys," 2009), with Colombian musician Marciano Martinez as a folk musician who embarks on a journey to return his accordion - an instrument supposedly won in a duel with the Devil - to his former master. Another critical success, the film earned Guerra the Award of the City of Rome at the 2009 Cannes Film
Shot on location in a remote corner of the Amazon River in Colombia, and photographed in stark black-and-white imagery, "Embrace of the Serpent" concerned a four-decade search for a legendary plant with alleged healing powers conducted by a shaman - the last member of his tribe - and two scientists. Based on the diaries of the real scientists, "Serpent" was hailed by international critics, and earned a slew of laurels, from a 2016 Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film to the Art Cinema award at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.