Embrace of the Serpent is a Harrowing Indictment of Colonialism

Embrace of the Serpent (El abrazo de la serpiente)
Written by Ciro Guerra & Jacques Toulemonde Vidal
Directed by Ciro Guerra
Colombia, 2015

It’s a tricky matter, trying to describe the defining features of a national cinema. In some ways it’s foolhardy: film industries are made up of many different filmmakers, all with different styles, experiences, and resources. Comparing the films of directors such as Steven Soderbergh, John Favreau, Miranda July, and Zack Snyder doesn’t necessarily give any sense of a coherent American film cultural. But pulling back further makes it easier to see a film cultural that in general favors larger budget action and genre films, even though variation exists in smaller budget films toward the margins. Other national cinemas have their own common features, even though plenty of variation exists. The fantastic Colombian filmEmbrace of the Serpent falls outside of any of these national traditions; the Colombian film industry has required government-funded resuscitation every few decades and has failed to develop the kind of identity that other national cinemas have. Part of what makes Embrace of the Serpent so intriguing is how it exists outside of any film tradition, and yet tells a uniquely Colombian tale.

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