Films tells of last Amazonian shaman

A scene from Embrace of the Serpent screening next week at the Nelson Film Society.

A scene from Embrace of the Serpent screening next week at the Nelson Film Society.

This film tells of an Amazonian shaman, Karamakate, and his encounters in 1909 and 1940, as a pair of western science explorers encounter the fading cultures embedded in the jungle's heart.  They are searching for a sacred plant in a universe unknown to most of us, a complex and magical time and place.

Ciro Guerra, a Colombian film director currently holds the reputation as one of Latin America's most exciting and original talents.  Embrace of the Serpent is his third film, receiving the top Art Cinema award at Directors' Fortnight in Cannes 2015 and Academy Award nomination for best foreign language film in 2016. 

This fantastic collusion shot in black and white with Colombian cinematographer David Gallego is in turns poetic, ominous and filled with intrigue, a complex meditation on documenting hidden worlds, a miracle of mesmerising images superbly set to a score including Haydn's Creation and Adeste Fideles.

Guerra's focus was the curiosity for a world that was like the dark side of our past, which only very few people knew about.  An unknown journey,  different communities, each with its own language, culture, and mythology.  

"I first saw the Amazon through the eyes of the explorers.  In the Amazon today, you realise that there is very little that remains, it is a completely different place, the cultures that we wrote about are now gone," said Guerra. "This film is about my country and my respect of the jungle.  The people there gave us their guidance and their spiritual protection. We really had to ask the jungle for permission to shoot there."

Embrace of the Serpent is simply a work of art, one of the most singular cinematic experiences you could hope to witness.  It is an absorbing Heart-of-Darkness voyage of discovery, a lament for all the lost plants and peoples of the world. Ultimately, this is an immaculate portrait of the unfathomable loneliness and crushing survivor's guilt that comes with being the last of one's kind.

Embrace of the Serpent, Ciro Guerra (Colombia/Venezuela/Argentina 2015) HD, 125 mins,  English subtitles. Thursday March 23, Suter Cinema 6pm. Nelson Film Society members only, join at the door.

 

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