Embrace of the Serpent

Embrace of the Serpent

Sloan Foundation Film

Release Date



  • Ciro Guerra


  • Nilbio Torres
  • Jan Bijvoet
  • Antonio Bolivar


  • Sundance Film Festival, 2016

The story of the relationship between Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman and last survivor of his people, and two scientists who work together over the course of 40 years to search the Amazon for a sacred healing plant.

The film tells two stories, taking place in 1909 and 1940, both starring Karamakate (played as a young man by Nilbio Torres and as an older man by Antonio Bolivar) an Amazonian shaman and last survivor of his tribe. He travels with two scientists, German Theodor Koch-Grunberg (Jan Bijvoet) and American Richard Evans Schultes (Brionne Davis), 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. Embrace of the Serpent 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.

Possible Topics

  • How do different cultures seek to understand nature?
  • Shamanism in Latin America

Past Programs


Rubber and Vulcanization

Athena Cinema, Athens, OH

What happens when a culture is lost?

Athens Ciné, Athens, GA

The Science of Psychedelics

Coolidge Corner Theatre, Brookline, MA

The Power of the Shaman

Amherst Cinema, Amherst, MA


Nature's Healing Process: The Use of Plants to Cure Our Ills

Martha's Vineyard Film Society, Tisbury, MA


Traditional ecological knowledge

Juneau Underground Motion Picture Society, Juneau Public Libraries, and Gold Town Theater, Juneau, AK