Embrace of the Serpent (Spanish: El abrazo de la serpiente) is a 2015 Colombian adventure drama film directed by Ciro Guerra. The film won the Art Cinema Award in the Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and it was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards.
The film tells two stories, taking place in 1909 and 1940, both starring Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman and last survivor of his tribe. He travels with two scientists, German Theodor Koch-Grunberg and American Richard Evans Schultes, to look for the rare yakruna, a sacred plant. The film is loosely inspired by the diaries written by the two scientists during their field work in the Amazon
The film has received universal acclaim from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 100% approval rating, based on 8 reviews, with an average score of 9.5/10. On Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating, the film has a score of 81 out of 100 based on 5 critics, indicating “universal acclaim”.
Indiewire’s Jessica Kiang awarded the film an A rating, calling it “a soulful, strange and stunning discovery”. She also described the character of Karamakate as “an immaculate portrait of the unfathomable loneliness and crushing survivor’s guilt that comes with being the last of one’s kind”. Jordan Mintzer of The Hollywood Reporter described the film as “a visually mesmerizing exploration of man, nature and the destructive powers of colonialism” and compared it to Miguel Gomes’ Tabu (2012). He also praised the black-and-white cinematography and the sound design which he said “makes the jungle truly come alive”. Justin Chang of Variety gave a positive review of the film. He wrote: “At once blistering and poetic, not just an ethnographic study but also a striking act of cinematic witness…”. About the parallel narrative he wrote it “delivers a fairly comprehensive critique of the destruction of indigenous cultures at the hands of white invaders”.Video-essayist :: kogonada voted for the film on Sight & Sound magazine’s poll for best film of 2015, stating that “Embrace of the Serpent is a mesmerizing feat of cinema. Guerra had me at frame one