Podcast from Intelatin: Filmcraft | ‘Embrace of the Serpent’

Feb 22, 2016
11:58 AM


This month we welcome Brionne Davis to Intelatin. Brionne is an actor in the Colombian film being released this month called Embrace of the Serpent. Directed by Ciro Guerra, this film is a monumental work set in the Colombian Amazon, and it spans two generations of life in Latin America from the perspective of the indigenous characters.

Before we talk to Brionne, I am going to tell you about one scene in the film. Theo is the first white man to engage with the people of the Amazon. He is accompanied by Karamakate, the protagonist of the film who lives through both generations. Theo is holding a compass, and the leader of the community where he docks is captivated by the compass. One thing leads to another, and when Theo and Karamakate go to get back in the boat, Theo cannot find his compass. Aggressively, he confronts the young individuals in the tribe and accuses them of theft. Theo gets so worked up about the compass that the leader of the tribe finally admits that he took it and that he’d be happy to exchange the compass for something of value. When Theo refuses to negotiate, Karamkate asks him why the compass is so important to him. He responds: “Their orientation system is based on the winds and the position of the stars. If they learn how to use a compass, that knowledge will be lost.” Karamakate responds with: “You cannot forbid them to learn. Knowledge belongs to all men. But that’s impossible for a white man to understand.”

It is this scene that I think best exemplifies the theme of the film. Whether we like it or not, as time passes, humans adapt to their surroundings, and they do so at the their own pace for their own reasons. But some humans — typically, but not exclusively, Europeans — have oftentimes wanted to dictate the pace by which they and others should be allowed to adapt. Typically they use some type of weapon to force this issue, because they understand that privilege brings cumulative advantage and lack of privilege brings cumulative disadvantage. When they dictate these advantages by force, they retain all or most of the power in the culture. This historical subjugation is so important for DREAMers to understand, because it is not just now and it is not just painful to us as individuals, as family or as community. It is through centuries of subjugation that our spirit animals have suffered to get us to now.

On Intelatin we also interviewed Vayijel, a band from Chiapas, Mexico, to help us understand their cosmovision on this reality.

Featured Guest: Brionne Davis, Embrace of the Serpent

Music performed by Goldcap, Fauna, Daniel Minimalia, Chief Ten Dogs, Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons, Nicolás Jaar, Grateful Dead, Wolf Alice and Vayijel

Correspondents: Sarah Bingham Miller for Cinelandia; Daniel Gaitan for Intelatin.

The next Intelatin episode will be released on the supermoon of March 2016.


Intelatin is a monthly radio broadcast hosted by Sergio C. Muñoz in Los Angeles, California. It is published on Latino Rebels, marketed by Audioboom.com ​and podcasted on iTunes. Latin American culture is the focus of the program: music, film, food, literature and business. It is in its fifth year of production and is dedicated to the passage of the federal DREAM Act. The radio broadcast for Intelatin was started in 2012 at California State University Long Beach as outreach for their majority Latinx campus. The broadcast aired on KBeach Global and KKJZ 88.1 FM. Connect on Twitter @Intelatin.