Embrace of the Serpent, Colombia’s 2016 Academy Award entry for Best Foreign film is a fascinating hallucination, compellingly real and deeply mystical. Crosscutting stories set decades apart, the narrative revolves around two scientists exploring the Amazon River in search of rare and exotic plants. Their guide, Karamakate is played by Nilbio Torres (as the younger) and Antonio Bolivar (as the older). Clad only in wrapped loincloths, Torres and Bolivar exude an unshakable iconic presence, concrete projections of the forest primeval. Karamakate is a shaman, a healer, a philosopher and, he believes, the last survivor of his tribe.
This is world where nature and dreams provide the most satisfying answers; logic and science are besides the elemental point. The scientists (fictional versions of Theodor Koch-Grünberg and Richard Evans Schultes) carry sketchbooks, cameras, navigational tools, and other supplies. They collect and archive; their prize catch is the rare and psychedelic Yakruna plant. This concern with material things and obsessive record keeping is time-wasting nonsense to Karamakate, who finds the truth in dreams, visions, and abandoning oneself to the ancient rhythms of nature and the sky. “Why do you whites like your stuff so much?” asks their mystified guide. READ MORE