Embrace of the Serpent

Oscar Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. "A blazingly original, heartbreaking, meditative, and strange journey into the heart and soul of the Amazonian rain forest."

Free screening presented by Laurier Wellbeing in Film Forum

“A visually mesmerizing exploration of man, nature and the destructive powers of colonialism, Embrace of the Serpent (El abrazo de la serpiente) marks an impressively realized third feature from Colombian writer-director Ciro Guerra. Featuring knockout black-and-white cinematography and an array of breathtaking locations, this is an ethnographic journey into the heart of the Amazon.

“The story was inspired by the journals of two explorers who traveled through the Colombian Amazon during the last century: the German Theodor Koch-Grunberg and the American Richard Evans Schultes. Cutting between 1909 and the 1940s, the parallel narratives chart each man’s voyage down a similar stretch of river as they search for a rare flower, the yakruna, with alleged healing powers. On both journeys they are guided by the same forlorn native shaman, Karamakate – the surviving member of a tribe that was wiped out by years of brutal foreign invasions.

“Filled with regret over the loss of his people and unable to fully trust the men he agrees to accompany downriver, Karamakate ultimately proves an invaluable resource to the explorers, both of whom are curious about his culture and willing to go along for the ride without knowing where they’re headed. Theodor, who’s suffering from a fatal illness, is especially dependent on the witch doctor’s powers, taking hits of an herbal medicine in order to stay alive.

“Following the dueling voyages as they head further into the heart of Amazonian darkness, Guerra and talented DP David Gallego use pristine widescreen imagery to underline the beauty of a place that’s slowly and sadly headed toward oblivion. For every magnificent stretch of forest and river, there are telling signs of destruction, such as a rubber plantation where a mutilated worker begs to be put out of his misery, or a Catholic mission that over the years becomes a decadent fiefdom ruled by a religious quack.

“The jungle truly come alive, and as the two travelers reach their respective destinations they gradually merge into their lush surroundings. Embrace of the Serpent is an absorbing account of indigenous tribes facing up to colonial incursions, revealing how Westerners are in many ways far behind the native peoples they conquer. History may unfortunately be on the side of the victors, but such progress is not always worth its weight in gold.” - Hollywood Reporter



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