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Embrace of the Serpent (2015)

El abrazo de la serpiente (original title)
Not Rated | | Adventure, Drama | 25 May 2015 (Colombia)
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The story of the relationship between Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman and last survivor of his people, and two scientists who work together over the course of forty years to search the Amazon for a sacred healing plant.

Director:

Ciro Guerra

Writers:

Ciro Guerra, Theodor Koch-Grünberg (based on the diary by) (as Theodor Koch-Grunberg) | 2 more credits »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 46 wins & 31 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview:
Nilbio Torres ... Young Karamakate
Antonio Bolivar ... Old Karamakate (as Tafillama-Antonio Bolivar Salvador)
Jan Bijvoet ... Theo
Brionne Davis ... Evan
Miguel Dionisio Ramos Miguel Dionisio Ramos ... Manduca (as Yauenkü Miguee)
Luigi Sciamanna Luigi Sciamanna ... Priest Gaspar / El Missionero
Nicolás Cancino Nicolás Cancino ... El Mesias
Pediwake Daniel Martinez Pediwake Daniel Martinez ... Santiago
José Sabogal José Sabogal ... El Siringuero
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Storyline

The story of the relationship between Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman and last survivor of his people, and two scientists who work together over the course of forty years to search the Amazon for a sacred healing plant.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Adventure | Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Release Date:

25 May 2015 (Colombia) See more »

Also Known As:

Embrace of the Serpent See more »

Filming Locations:

Vaupés, Colombia See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,400,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$50,955, 21 February 2016, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$1,329,249

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$3,411,541
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The indigenous languages spoken in the movie are Cubeo, Wanano, Tikuna and Uitoto (pronounced Wee-toto). See more »

Quotes

Old Karamakate: To become warriors, the cohiuanos must abandon all and go alone to the jungle, guided only by their dreams. In this journey, he has to find out, in solitude and silence, who he really is. He must become a wanderer dream. Many are lost, and some never return. But those who return they are ready to face what is to come.
See more »

Soundtracks

Dudamel: Let the Children Play (End)
by Nascuy Linares
© 2016 Plaza Mayor Company, Ltd.
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User Reviews

 
Allows us to remember how to dream
8 October 2015 | by Howard SchumannSee all my reviews

For 350 years, Spain built a vast empire in South America based on the labor and exploitation of the Indian population, forcing them to accept Christianity while decimating their culture, religion, and even their language. In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, "rubber barons" rounded up all the Indians and forced them to tap rubber out of the trees in rainforest zones leading to slavery and human rights abuses. Winner of the top Director's Fortnight Award at Cannes and Colombia's submission to the Oscars in the Best Foreign Film category, Ciro Guerra's ("The Wind Journeys") Embrace of the Serpent (El abrazo de la serpiente) provides a powerful insight into the effects of colonialism on an indigenous population.

The film, in which nine different languages are spoken, follows two interconnected stories based on the travel journals of two Amazonian explorers thirty years apart, German scientist Theodor Koch-Grunberg (Jan Bijvoet, "Borgman") and American plant enthusiast Richard Evans Schultes (Brionne Davis, "Avenged"). Both men are seeking the Yakruna plant to discover its powerful ability to heal. The two explorers are accompanied by the Amazonian shaman Karamakate (Niblio Torres as a young man and Antonio Bolivar as the elder) not only to find the sacred plant for research purposes but to learn deeper truths about themselves and the nature of reality. Karamakate, the last surviving member of his tribe, guards the secrets of Yakruna, a last symbol of independence for his people.

Filmed in black and white by cinematographer David Gallego ("Cecilia"), it is the first film to be shot on location in the Amazon in thirty years and its gorgeous kaleidoscope of rivers and forests, and the blending of time creates a surreal, dreamlike atmosphere, fortified by native songs and chants. As the film begins, a young Karamakate, armed with a spear and dressed in native attire, stands menacingly as a boat approaches the shore containing the German scientist and his companion Manduca (Yauenku Migue), a native dressed in white man's clothing.

Manduca asks the shaman to cure the explorer who is very sick, but Karamakate, who is familiar with the destructive nature of the white man, refuses. When Theo tells him, however, that he has seen survivors of his people and will take him to them, the young shaman agrees as long as the white man follows his "prohibitions" about disturbing the natural flow of the jungle. The two scientists, Theo in 1909 and Evan in 1940, follow the same path and explore the same places drastically changed over the years. Karamakate, as he did with Theo, acts as Evan's guide and considers himself as a "chullachaqui," an empty shell of a human being, and must become a man once more in tune with nature.

Two scenes stand out. After a night of singing and dancing with a native group and demonstrating Western technology, Theodor becomes angry when a member of the group wants to keep his compass in exchange for goods. To rationalize his anger, he tells Karamakate that owning a compass would disturb their traditions of finding locations through the sun and stars, but the shaman tells him "You cannot forbid them to learn. Knowledge belongs to all men." The other scene is one of pure horror when a priest (Luigi Sciamanna, "Secreto de Confesion") at a Spanish mission is found brutally whipping his young students until Theodor intervenes.

Despite an element of religious madness that feels out of sync with the tone of the film, Embrace of the Serpent soars when its focus is on spiritual awareness. The shaman tells both scientists the need to unburden themselves of their material possessions and explore the mystery of consciousness alone without their physical and psychological baggage. They cannot be cured of their illness, he tells them, because they have forgotten how to dream. After Evan ingests a native plant following a heated exchange with Karamakate, a montage of brilliant, swirling colors pushes the boundary of what we think is real and allows us to remember how to dream.


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