Antonio Bolívar was in real life what he represented on the screen: ancestral wisdom, knowledge of the botanical world and a natural talent for acting. Bolívar, a member of the Huitoto indigenous peoples became known to audiences around the world as “Karamakate,” the shaman in Ciro Guerra’s spellbinding film El Abrazo de la Serpiente (The Embrace of the Serpent) and nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2015 Academy Awards.
Shot entirely in black-and-white and using as its location the area close to the Mavecure mountains in the department of Guainía, home to the Huitoto, Bolívar’s Karamakate befriends two Amazonian explorers as one of the last members of his tribe, the early 19th Century German explorer Theodor Koch-Grunberg and American botanist and cultural anthropologist Richard Evans-Schultes. Embrace of the Serpent won the Art Cinema Award at the Directors’ Fortnight section at Cannes and was attended by director Ciro Guerra, producer Cristina Gallego and Antonio Bolívar.
After Bolívar was hospitalized this week in Leticia, capital of Amazonas department, with coronavirus symptoms, on Friday, his death at age 72 was confirmed.
Bolívar was an accomplished translator of indigenous languages, including Tikuna and Cubeo spoken among peoples who inhabit the Orinoco and Amazon region. Director Ciro Guerra, whose most recent films include Birds of Passage (2018) and Waiting for the Barbarians (2019), also cast Bolívar in his first Netflix production Frontera Verde (Green Frontier).
Leticia has 104 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and four patients, among them Antonio Bolívar, have died from the disease.