Embrace of the Serpent

EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT (2015) Movie Trailer & Poster ...

The Embrace of the Serpent

Directed by Diana Ferro

Film Review

Winning Best Foreign Language film for 2015, this Colombian film explores the dilemma faced by all indigenous people whether to avoid or help white colonizers.

Entirely in black and white except for the final scenes, the film portrays the efforts of a shaman (and the last surviving member of his people) to help two white scientists escape their narrow three-dimensional view of the world. All traditional European dimensions, including a linear view of time, are challenged.

The plot concerns the scientists’ search in the Amazon rainforest for a miracle healing plant they need to recover from fatal illness.

The film’s theme is best expressed by one of the supporting characters: “If we can’t get the whites to learn, it will be the end of everything.”

The film is based on the diaries of two real life scientists (one German, the other American) helped by indigenous shamans in their search for ayahuasca.*

*Ayahuasa has since been found of benefit in the treatment of heroin addiction, alcoholism and post traumatic stress disorder. See Psychodelics and Plant Medicine

The film can be viewed free on Māori TV for the next two weeks.




North Carolina’s Chinese-Owned Industrial Pig Factories


Directed by Stefano Liberti and Enrico Parenti (2018)

Film Review

The title of this documentary is somewhat misleading: it actually concerns the industrial production of pork for the growing Chinese middle class. Under our present globalized system of industrial agriculture, pigs raised on factory farms (both in China and the US) are fed industrially produced corn and soybeans. Most of this (genetically engineered) soy comes from recently deforested areas of the Brazilian Amazon.

Given the current US trade war with China, I was astonished to learn that a Chinese company (having acquired Smithfields in 2013) is operating gigantic factory pig farms in North Carolina. Most are located in the state’s poor rural (and black) communities that struggle with the toxic aerosols from the (illegal) open pits adjacent to buildings warehousing tends of thousands of hogs.

In addition to visiting North Carolina hog factories and their distressed neighbors,* the filmmakers travel to Brazil to film the massive soybean plantations, as well as local small farmers whose livelihoods have been destroyed by industrial soy production. Together with local environmentalists and indigenous activists, these farmers are fighting the ongoing destruction of the Amazon rainforest by expanding soy plantations.

Predictably only a handful of farmers and international agrobusinesses are becoming fabulously wealthy, while more and more Brazilians struggle to feed themselves.

The filmmakers also visit Mozambique, where local grassroots organizers are successfully fighting the Pro-Savannah initiative. This is a (currently suspended) government initiative involving Japan, Brazil, and Mozambique. It seeks to drive local subsistence farmers off their land to create factory farms producing soy, cotton, and corn for export to China.

Most activists blame these trends on the continued drive, both in the industrial North and China, for cheap meat – irrespective of its quality. Sadly most Chinese consumers are totally unaware of the true cost of their cheap meat. Brazil’s GM soybeans are sprayed with massive amounts of Roundup and other carcinogenic pesticides. This results in serious potential health consequences for human beings who eat pigs that are fed on them.

*North Carolina has its own grassroots organization, the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network fighting their exposure to health-damaging pollution and industry harassment. See https://www.facingsouth.org/2017/02/step-toward-environmental-justice-north-carolinas-hog-country