THE ROAD AS A NATIONAL CHRONOTOPE IN BOLIVIAN CINEMA

Karl Swinehart

Abstract


This paper examines the cinematic chronotope of the road in four Bolivian films—Paolo Agazzi’s Mi Socio (1983), Rodrigo Bellot’s ¿Quién Mató a La Llamita Blanca? (2006), Jorge Sanjinés’ La Nación Clandestina (1989), and Juan Carlos Valdivia’s Zona Sur (2009). While these films differ from one another in terms of the historical contexts of their production and release, and also in terms of cinematic genre, the road, and the national highway in particular, features prominently in them all. Across these films, the road figures as a site of both national aspiration and failure. The road operates in these films as a model of spacetime that functions not only as a spatiotemporal structuring element of the films’ narratives, but also a surface of contact between national subjects and their state. Additionally, building on Mikhail Bakhtin’s exploration of the picaresque novel that saw the chronotope of the road as key to understanding the “sociohistorical heterogeneity of one’s own country,” I suggest that the roads in these films are not just spaces of heterogeneity but also spaces for its ideological framing, aligning with historical changes in discourses of Bolivian identity, specifically a move away from an integrationist nationalism towards a recognition of the plurinational character of the Bolivian Republic. Where road trip films Mi Socio and La Llamita provide filmic fantasies of infrastructures’ unifying capacity, the films La Nación Clandestina and Zona Sur depict the road as a spacetime populated by personae in conflict. Pessimistic assessments of the possibility for national coherence emerge from these latter two films’ depiction of the road as a spacetime of disconnect and rupture between incommensurate worlds of the city and the countryside, a chronotope riddled with potholes of anti-Indian racism.

Keywords


bolivian cinema, road, spacetime, La Nación Clandestina, Mi Socio, Zona Sur

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