The reason for black and white — or one of them, anyway — in Cero Guerra’s tale of dual Amazonian explorations is clear from the get-go: the lack of color allows texture and light to come to the fore in spectacular fashion. The film can be savored (and almost entirely understood) on the strength of its visuals alone, but the dialogue is much more than decoration. Rather, it serves to navigate the twisting, tangled souls of both explorer and native. Both of the physical journeys — one in 1909, another in 1940 — involve a white man in search of yakruna, a plant of remarkable power and dubious existence, and a Cohiuano shaman named Karamakate. Suspicious, heartbroken, clever, and profoundly decent, Karamakate believes himself the last of his tribe, the sole repository of his people’s wisdom and culture. Throughout, he succeeds in avoiding the brutal and rapacious rubber barons, the brutal and overzealous missionaries, and the brutal and invasive Colombians, but the questing men of science prove too great a temptation. Wisdom wants to be shared. A frankly great character in a thoroughly gripping film.
Length: 2 hours, 5 minutes