Ciro Guerra’s third full-length film, El Abrazo de la Serpiente, is so good that makes you want to watch both other works created by the thirty-five-year-old Colombian director.
Karamakate is an Amazonian shaman, the last survivor of his tribe, the Cohiuano. He lives all alone in the jungle in complete harmony with nature, knowing all of its secrets. Theodor Koch-Grunberg, a German ethnologist who is studying the Amazonian tribes, will visit him in 1909 in pursuance of yakruna, a healing plant that can cure him of malaria. Thirty years later, in 1940, Karamakate will meet another scientist, American biologist Richard Evans Schultes, who is claiming that he’s also looking for yakruna, influenced by Grunberg’s research.
These two parallel quests unveil how Westerners intruded South America. Colonialists did not settle for the outrageous exploitation of the indigenous people that took place at rubber plantations, but also sent missionaries. These so-called messiahs used inconceivable christianization tactics that permanently altered the aboriginal population. The director tells us two amazing stories and, at the same time, shows us how the western “civilized” world corrupted the Amazonian tribes. Guerra may not answer any question raised by his own film, but still gives an answer to everyone who’s denying or trying to forget the past.
You can watch the trailer here.