Embrace Of The Serpent

Belcourt Theatre Nashville, TN


Dr. ​Paul J. Gresch

Research Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Vanderbilt University

Embrace of the Serpent— 75 Years of Hallucinogen Research: What a Long Strange Trip It's Been

A discussion of the history of hallucinogen research.

Belcourt Theatre Nashville, TN

Film Synopsis

The story of the relationship between Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman and last survivor of his people, and two scientists who work together over the course of 40 years to search the Amazon for a sacred healing plant.

The film tells two stories, taking place in 1909 and 1940, both starring Karamakate (played as a young man by Nilbio Torres and as an older man by Antonio Bolivar) an Amazonian shaman and last survivor of his tribe. He travels with two scientists, German Theodor Koch-Grunberg (Jan Bijvoet) and American Richard Evans Schultes (Brionne Davis), to look for the rare yakruna, a sacred plant. The film is loosely inspired by the diaries written by the two scientists during their field work in the Amazon. Embrace of the Serpent won the Art Cinema Award in the Directors' Fortnight section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, and it was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards.

About the Speaker

Dr. Paul J. Gresch is a research associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University. Trained as a neuropharmacologist, his research has focused on the signaling mechanisms of serotonin receptors, including understanding the specific brain regions and neurotransmitters involved in the unique properties of hallucinogenic drugs. Dr. Gresch is currently the director of the Bioanalytical Laboratory for the Conte Center for Neuroscience Research at Vanderbilt, which seeks to understand how early brain development shapes the serotonin system and how disruptions during development can impact such disorders as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and autism.