Given Bloomington’s relatively large Colombian community, Israel Herrera said he and other local Colombians are proud to see “Embrace of the Serpent” in their town.
The film, which is the first Colombian film to be nominated for the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film, screens Friday at the IU Cinema.
Following the film’s screening will be a Q&A by actor Brionne Davis, who plays American scientist Richard Evans Schultes.
He will offer a public informal talk earlier in the day.
Herrera, who is the faculty adviser of IU’s Grupo Ñ Spanish Club, said the effort to bring Davis and the film to Bloomington was largely student-driven.
“The president for the Indiana Latino American Association is also Colombian, so there was this kind of Colombian energy that was there,” he said. “This was not just my plan.”
“Embrace of the Serpent,” the 2015 film from Ciro Guerra, is set in 1909 and 1940 and follows an Amazonian shaman named Karamakate.
In the film, Karamakate travels with two scientists who are looking for a sacred medicinal plant.
The film is loosely based on the journals of the scientists. Herrera said Guerra cast roles to indigenous people.
Herrera, who is teaching a course this semester on Hispanic cinema, said this narrative film has some documentary value.
“This is a way to show part of the history,” he said. “It’s also a way to show the interaction and the encounter between the Western world and the indigenous.”
However, he said the filmmakers did not want to make a documentary because of the fear of exploiting indigenous people.
Herrera said the film shows this encounter via Davis’ role as the American scientist and Karamakate, who is the last surviving member of his Amazonian tribe.
The film also paints a larger picture of how the Colombian government treats indigenous people, he said.
“In Colombia, the indigenous population are forgotten,” he said. “Communities are forgotten by the government. This film raises interest about this population in Colombia because they don’t have all the opportunities other people have.”
Although the film is based in the early 20th century, he said many tribes are still lacking support from the Colombian government.
Likewise, he said indigenous groups have been displaced due to oil companies seeking locations to drill, including the rain forest.
“Sometimes we forget that people live in the Amazon too,” he said.
During the film, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Catalan and Latin are spoken with English subtitles.
Herrera said this gives the film linguistic and anthropological value.
Due to the historical significance of “Embrace of the Serpent,” Herrera said he and many members of Bloomington’s Colombian community have been looking forward to tonight’s screening.
“This was a historic moment in the Colombian cinema,” he said. “The Colombian film academy, all Colombian directors have been talking about this as a special moment.”
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