Embrace of the Serpent
Director: Ciro Guerra
Year of Release: 2016
Running Time: 2 hours 3 minutes
Drawing on real-life diary entries, Ciro Guerra's Embrace of the Serpent is an extraordinary combination of historical fact and mystical folklore intertwining two stories which seek to expose the horrors of colonialism. In the first, an Amazonian shaman leads a German ethnographer toward an ancient plant which will supposedly save his life, and in the second, the same shaman encounters an American botanist who hopes to witness the plant for himself and bring it back to the states for research purposes three decades later. Writer-director Guerra gives us a striking vision of paradise lost; with winding journeys down snaking rivers suffocated by overhanging trees, all shot in pristine black and white. It's a simultaneously haunting, enigmatic, and quietly powerful film, with Nilbio Torres as the young shaman commanding the screen with a fierce intensity and steely-eyed gaze. In this Colombian version of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", progress isn't so much negated as it's revealed to be a devolution of a once important civilization.