Bars, banality, mierda and love: The struggle for (comm)unity in the Costa Rican film El regreso/The Return

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Studies in Spanish & Latin American Cinemas


This article explores how Costa Rican Hernán Jiménez’s El regreso/The Return (Jiménez, 2011) expresses a vision of community predicated on belonging, home, love and forgiveness reminiscent of the idea of a collective, revolutionary love in twentieth-century Central America. I argue, however, that the film’s idealistic vision contradicts itself by defining community through persistent images of bars and shit compounded by a pronounced sociopolitical disengagement. In turn, a fractured (comm)unity results, where social violence and inequality are perpetuated. This article places El regreso into dialogue with Laura Podalsky’s ideas on affect in Latin American cinema, Michael Billig’s banal nationalism and Julia Kristeva’s abject in order to explore how the film’s proposal might be reframed on more sustainable terms. The film’s world-view and affective appeal, I argue, also tangibly manifest via the Kickstarter campaign that funded the project.