Oscilloscope Laboratories has targeted June 21 as the street date for both DVD and Blu-ray editions of director Ciro Guerra’s Best Foreign Language contender (the official submission by Colombia) in this past year’s Oscar derby, Embrace of the Serpent.
The ARR is 123 days and domestic box office receipts for this Spanish-language import currently stands at $944,150.
For film lovers, Embrace of the Serpent is something very special … and for those who are only casual viewers and not likely to be willing to sit through either a film in another tongue or one shot in glorious black and white, this should be, if nothing more, the once per year exception.
Filmmaker Ciro Guerra has crafted an engaging narrative based on the diary writings of two different scientists — a generation apart — on the same quest in the Colombian regions of the Amazon.
The first, Theodor Koch-Grunberg (played by Jan Bijvoet — Dirty Mind, Borgman) was a German explorer and ethnologist who visited the region prior to World War I and wrote extensively about his encounters with people indigenous to area on his two breathtaking expeditions in the Amazonian region over a ten-year period (circa 1903 – 1913). He was also the subject of Portuguese filmmaker Silvino Santos’ 1925 documentary, No Rastro do Eldorado (his third South American expedition where he died tragically from issues related to his health).
The second scientist to visit the area was Richard Evans Schultes (portrayed by Brionne Davis), an American biologist whose lifelong research on medicinal uses of plants made him the “Father of Modern Ethnobotany” … one of his most famous of his publications is “The Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers,” which he co-authored with the scientist who discovered LSD, Albert Hofmann.
What the two men have in common — and Ciro Guerra’s screenplay handles this so beautifully — is their contact with shaman Karamakate (played generationally by actors Nilbio Torres and Antonio Bolivar), who serves as their guide, their mentor and as a fellow scientist.
Embrace of the Serpent could have been a dull documentary — especially with that black and white touch — but Guerra infuses the narrative with adventure, drama and always keeps us, the armchair travel, engaged.
Shot entirely on location in Colombia and presented in Spanish with English subtitles.