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The Colombian drama "Embrace of the Serpent," already up for the Academy Award in the Foreign-Language Film category, took home another prize Wednesday: The Alfred P. Sloan Prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
The prize is given out annually to the movie that best portrays science and technology, or the life of a scientist, engineer or mathematician. The prize includes a $20,000 cash award.
Directed by Ciro Guerra, "Embrace of the Serpent" is inspired by the journals of scientists Theodor Koch-Grünberg and Richard Evans Schultes, and depicts their search through the Colombian Amazon for the sacred and psychedelic yakurna plant and traces their 40-year friendship with Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman.
The prize was selected by a jury of five: Actor Kerry Bishé, director Mike Cahill ("Another Earth," "I Origins"), filmmaker Shane Carruth ("Primer," "Upstream Color"), USC professor Clifford Johnson, and Harvard genetics professor Ting Wu.
The jury praised Guerra's film for "its original and provocative portrait of a scientist and a scientific journey into the unknown, and for its unconventional depiction of how different cultures seek to understand nature."
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Sundance Institute also announced grants for works in progress:
• The Sundance Institute / Sloan Fellowship, with a $15,000 cash award, will go to Mark Levinson, writer-director of "The Gold Bug Variations," an adaptation of Richard Powers' novel that entwines two love stories and the disappearance of a genetic scientist. Levinson most recently directed the documentary "Particle Fever."
• The Sundance Institute / Sloan Commissioning Grant, a $12,500 cash award, will go to writers Darcy Brislin and Dyana Winkler for their script for "Bell," a look at the controversial life of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone and eugenics researcher.
Sean P. Means