Embrace of the Serpent by Ciro Guerra

Embrace of the Serpent is an international co-production by the director Ciro Guerra . Winner of the Art Cinema Award , Best Ibero-American Film and the Best Foreign Language film at the 88th Academy Awards .


 "Embrace of the Serpent"


Spain has build a vast empire in South America taking advantage of native population and forcing Christianity . Slowly but steadily decimating their culture and the nature , so precious for the indigenous population .


Embrace of the Serpent tells the story of Karamakate(Niblio Torres) , a young shaman , the last survivor of his tribe .


Acquiescent with his fate he lives in solitude on the banks of the Amazon river . The German explorer Theodor Koch-Grunberg (Jan Bijvoet, "Borgman") and his companion Manduca (Yauenku Migue) appear as unexpected guests in his life . The first one very sick and his companion bagging the young shaman for help .


Embrace of the Serpent screen shot


In Karmakate’s eyes , Theodor is a member of the white race , which is responsible for eradicating his tribe . At first he denies help to the couple , but then  he realizes that leaving his broken hearth to take such a decision , would deprive him of his humanity .


Years later in 1940 Karamakate (played by Antonio Bolivar) is visited by another explorer Richard Evans Schultes (Brionne Davis, "Avenged") , a plant enthusiast , who seeks the mysterious sacred plant Yakruna . Many years have passed since the Karamakate’s first encounter with the white man . The shaman has now replaced his anger with fatigue and has been sunken in oblivion . He has forgotten the ways of his people and the only thing left as a distant memory are the petroglyphs he draws on the rocks .


Embrace of the Serpent screenshot


Embrace of the Serpent is a touching story about the indigenous people and their simple gracious approach to life and existence . Ciro Guerra's masterpiece is focused on the Native Americans and their culture . Their spiritual practices and their symbiosis with the surrounding environment  .


Embrace of the Serpent is also a story about two life changing voyages .


The movie explores the ideas of the so called civilized man , the controversial progress and the Christian’s way . At the end of his first voyage Karamakate meets a sadistic priest offering a “salvation” to orphans , by flogging and punishing them . He denies their right to speak their native language by calling it the devil’s speech . Years later during the second voyage Karamakate and his companion Evans once again visit the mission to find that it has been occupied by a vicious cult . The leader of that cult thinks himself as  Jesus , fostering self-abuse and ritual suicides .


Embrace of the Serpent screenshot


The characters of the two white man in Embrace of the Serpent are based on actual people . The work of Richard Evans Schultes in the Amazonian rainforest greatly exceeds what has been shown in the movie . His studies led to many discoveries in the medicine . His exploration of the psychedelic plants has given a base for future researches and studies . In 1979 he cooperates with Albert Hoffman(the founder of LSD) and publishes the book „Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing and Hallucinogenic Powers” .


Embrace of the Serpent  depicts two unforgettable voyages . Somber and in the same time beautiful image of times past . The movie is a deep and touching experience describing the best and the worst of both worlds .


Related Literature

Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers

by Richard Evans Schultes and Albert Hofmann


The Lost Amazon: The Pioneering Expeditions of Richard Evans Schultes

by Wade Davis and Richard Evans Schultes


Where the Gods Reign: Plants and Peoples of the Colombian Amazon

by Richard Evans Schultes


The Healing Forest: Medicinal and Toxic Plants of the Northwest Amazonia

by Richard Evans Schultes and Robert F. Raffauf

Ethnobotany: Evolution of a Discipline

by Richard Evans Schultes and Siri von Reis

Vine of the Soul: Medicine Men, Their Plants & Rituals

by Richard Evans Schultes and Robert Raffauf