For the first time ever, a Colombian film has been pre-nominated for an Oscar. Along with eight other foreign language productions, Ciro Guerra’s Embrace of the Serpent will move on to the next round of voting for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. The names of the five nominated films will be announced on January 14.
“Making it this far is a historic event for Colombian cinema. We haven’t just made it to the world’s preeminent film event – we did it with stories from our Amazonian peoples, who are striving for harmony with nature and who have tried to be heard for so long. Embrace of the Serpent encourages us to think about the earth, about what we do with it, about ecology, about transcendence,” said the film’s producer, Cristina Gallego, to the newspaper El Espectador .
In the race for the Oscar, Embrace of the Serpent will compete with the Belgian film The Brand New Testament, the Danish film A War, the Finish film The Fencer, the French film Mustang, Labyrinth of Lies from Germany, the Hungarian film Son of Saul, Viva from Ireland, and the Jordanian film Theeb.
When Embrace premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2015, it won the Art Cinema Award, the most important award at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. At Cannes, Guerra said, “For Colombians, there is nothing more unknown than the Amazon (…) We have grown up facing away from the river. People have no idea what’s there, and neither did I. So it was also a process of discovery for us.”
Shot in black and white, Embrace of the Serpent is based on the diaries kept by two explorers in their travels through the Amazon – Theodor Koch-Grunberg, a German ethnologist, and Richard Evan Schultes, a renowned American botanist who documented the hallucinatory power of certain plants. The film has also been nominated for Best International Film at the Independent Spirit Awards, which honor the best of independent film.
The Oscar shortlist will be evaluated in New York, Los Angeles, and London by special committees invited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The committees will view three films a day from Friday, January 8th to Sunday, January 10, to then cast and count the ballots that will determine which five productions will be nominated for the 2015 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.