Colombian director Ciro Guerra’s acclaimed film El Abrazo de la Serpiente (Embrace of the Serpent) won best picture last night at the Platino Awards. The Oscar-nominated movie was the most honored of the night at what is considered the Academy Awards of Latin America, nearly running the table by taking home seven of the eight prizes it was nominated for.
While the team of creators were overjoyed for the recognition, producer Cristina Gallego used her platform to encourage more support for independent art films like El Abrazo de la Serpiente. “We, the producers, are trying to bring people to the theaters, but we need the support of our governments in order to create consumption habits for our cinema,” said Gallego at the event, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
In addition to winning best picture, Guerra was named best director while El Abrazo de la Serpiente won for best cinematography, best original score, best art direction, best sound, and best editing. The 35-year-old auteur from Rio de Oro, Colombia, can now add these trophies to an overflowing mantle that also includes the prestigious Art Cinema Award from Cannes, the Alfred P. Sloan Prize from Sundance, and virtually every statue handed out at this year’s Macondo Awards, the top honors given for films in Colombia.
Though El Abrazo de la Serpiente was nominated for the best foreign language film at the 2016 Academy Awards, it came up short, losing to Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes’ Son of Saul, a story set at the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz.
The outpouring of appreciation is well deserved and continues to garner the film a wider audience. But the work needs no critics to affirm its powerful messages and stunning presentation. Guerra’s opus is a gripping saga that spans the life of the last surviving man of a tribe from the Amazon. He serves as the guide, both for viewers and for multiple generations of foreigners arriving to the rainforest, throughout a masterfully crafted allegory that unveils the physical and cultural beauty of a region few ever get to know first hand.
“Once you get in touch with people who have experienced another side of a common narrative, we realize that history has only been told from one side, and we can offer a new perspective on that history,” Guerra told MTV in February. “Amazonian people have such a hugely different view on all aspects of life and understanding and knowledge and storytelling, we become aware of a refreshing and new experience.”
The result is a film that treads the line between storytelling and video artistry, exploring the tragic history of colonialism and an often-overlooked part of Colombian culture. Considering that Ciro Guerra manages to pull off his ambitious goals with such striking visuals, and without overwrought sermonizing about environmentalism, it is no wonder that El Abrazo de la Serpiente continues to win award after award for its achievements in filmmaking.
This third annual Premios Platino awards show was held in Punta del Este, Uruguay. The film academies of 23 Spanish-speaking countries, plus Brazil and Portugal, gathered to commemorate the year’s best in Latin cinema.