By Robin E. Simmons
EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT
“In this moment, it is not possible for me to know if the infinite jungle has started on me the process that has taken many others that have ventured into these lands, to complete and irremediable insanity. I find it impossible to describe its beauty and splendor. All I know is that, like those who have shed the thick veil that blinded them, when I cam back to my senses, I had become a different man.” ~Edited excerpt from the 1907 journal of explorer Theodor Koch-Grünberg’s
Based on the diaries of two early 20th century explorers who never met, Ciro Guerra’s hypnotic, hallucinatory, black and white film rescues the memory of an Amazonian culture that no longer exists.
The story details the terrible cost to indigenous cultures from the gradual invasion of western civilization, based on the real-life adventures of separate European and American explorers and a local shaman.
At once blistering and poetic, SERPENT depicts the terrible cost to indigenous cultures from the gradual invasion of western civilization — notably greedy rubber barons and abusive missionaries – that cast a dark shadow over the South American landscape.
The story centers on Karamakate, a shaman and the last survivor of his people and the two scientists who, over the course of 40 years, build a friendship with him. The film, inspired by the real-life journals and letters of two explorers — Theodor Koch-Grünberg and Richard Evans Schultes – who traveled through the Columbian Amazon in search of the sacred and rare psychedelic plant Yakruna.
Filmed during course of seven weeks in the jungles of Vaupés, this is the first theatrical film to be shot in the Colombian Amazon in more than 30 years. But more significantly, it is also the first Colombian film to feature an indigenous protagonist that is told from his perspective.
Director Ciro wrote the screenplay over the course of four years with co-writer Jacques Toulemondo coming on board for the final drafts. Ciro said, “I spent two years, on and off, living in the Amazon, researching the story.”
Jan Bijvoet plays Theodor and Brionne Davis is Evan. Nilbio Torres plays the young Karamakate. This is his first film appearance and he is mesmerizing. Antonio Bolivar Salvador plays the older Karamakate with a wise, resigned grace. He said, “SERPENT is a film that shows the Amazon, the lungs of the world, the greater purifying filter and the most valuable of indigenous cultures. That is the greatest achievement.”
When writer-director Ciro was asked if this film changed his perception of the world, he said: “It is difficult for us born and raised in the capitalist system to change our lives. But it is comforting to know that there is not just one way to be human.”
EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT is the Best Foreign Film Nominee from Columbia.
NEW FOR THE HOME THEATER:
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THE BLOOD LANDS
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