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Embrace of the Serpent

An Amazonian shaman, the lone survivor of his tribe, is the commanding central presence in this hypnotic reversal of the jungle-explorer genre by Colombian director Ciro Guerra (The Wind Journeys). Its majestically shot in the Amazon, in B&W so intensely rich and finely detailed that you might wish the world itself could do without colour. The shaman Karmakates peregrinations are based on actual trips documented by two explorers, German ethnographer Theodor Koch-Grunberg, who visited in 1911, and American scientist Richard Evans Schultes, who followed in his footsteps with Koch-Grunbergs journals for a guide, three decades later. The bitter irony is that, after the depredations of Christianity and the rubber trade, its through these mens explorations that any record of the likes of Karamakate survives. Intercutting between the shaman as a young man and as an older one guiding each of his alien visitors down the river, Guerra posits the opposite situation. He turns an indigenous eye on these stray Europeans whove become uneasy dependents, mocking them, seducing them with animism, and drawing on natures pharmacy to cure their ails and bend their minds. Just a few minutes in, the viewer is entirely submerged in this fantastical, quasi-mythical, soul-crushing yet often very funny story& None of the arduousness behind-the-scenes shows in the final film, which unfolds with a stunning directorial sureness and a layered intelligence that at times lands an insight so wincingly wise and true it takes your breath away.  Jessica Kiang, The Playlist

Year: 2015
Genre: Drama, Latin America Cinema, Nick's Favourites, Film Festivals 2015
Country: Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia
Director: Ciro Guerra
Starring: Brionne Davis, Antonio Bolivar, Jan Bijvoet, Nilbio Torres
Duration: 119 Minutes
Rating: M - Violence and content that may disturb
Subtitles: Yes
7.9/10
Location in store: Foreign (Latin America)

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