Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Now on Amazon Prime: Embrace of the Serpent (2016)

Embrace of the Serpent (2016) - Directed by Ciro Guerra; Written by Guerra and Jacques Toulemonde Vidal; Starring Nilbio Torres, Jan Bijvoet, Antonio Bolivar, Brionne Davis, Yaenku Migue, Nicolas Cancino, Luigi Sciamanna.

By Kenny Howell

Two men 40 years apart travel deep into the Amazon Rainforest with the help of a shaman to try to find a sacred healing plant in this amazing film from Colombia.

The parallel stories are interwoven, as we are first introduced to Theo, played by Jan Bijvoet (Borgman) a very sick explorer who needs the plant. He asks for the help of Karamakate (Nilbio Torres), a shaman who is the last of his tribe. The others have been destroyed by western influence and the exploding rubber industry in the area.

Years later, Evan (Brionne Davis) also finds Karamakate (played in older age by Antonio Bolivar) in his search for the plant. Karamakate is now in the late years of his life and doesn't remember much from his earlier years. Even his heritage, the traditions that he holds so dear, have started to leave him.

Embrace of the Serpent is about a lot of things, but nothing it explicitly hammers into you. It lets the messages drift out of its contemplative story, the passage of time, the sometimes damaging influence of the west on these tribes, the disappearing of an entire people and way of life, greed, the attachment to possessions, so on and so on. Director Cira Guerra so seamlessly interweaves all these big ideas into this fascinating drama, never once leaving the narrative to pontificate or lecture you on what its trying to say. It's a world that we don't get to see very often, and a trip to a fascinating place that seems like a totally different world.

Embrace of the Serpent was nominated for an Oscar last year for Best Foreign Language Film of 2015, though, as is sometimes the case, did not get a release date here until 2016.  It definitely will be in my awards for this year once that time rolls around.

Embrace of the Serpent is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Rating: ****

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