(directed by Alex Rivera, 2008)
**** (out of 5)
> This fine Mexican film is more social criticism than the sci-fi it appears to be at first blush. Exciting, intriguing and very hallucinatory, this thoughtful movie extrapolates current trends and imagines a world in the not-too-distant future where work is imported from third world countries without importing workers. The exploited class works remotely, standing up for 12 hour shifts in “sleep dealers”, where they are virtually connected to robots in cities around the world through plastic tubes inserted into portals imbedded in their flesh.
. It’s a fascinating vision of a world of the exploited and the exploiters who control them. (Sound disquietly familiar?) The story involves the son of a proud Mexican peasant whose land is threatened by the big company that dammed up the local river and stole his sustenance, destroying his family’s way of life. The young country boy becomes a self-taught hacker, with disastrous effects for his family, so he manages to get portals implanted and leaves his small village to seek work in Tijuana. There he meets a beautiful but duplicitous writer, selling her memories online to lonely, disconnected people seeking some semblance of emotion in their sterile lives. (The part is played by actress Leonor Varela, who looks like a stunning cross between a young Penelope Cruz and Natalie Portman.) Against her better judgment, she begins to fall for him, even as she manipulates to exploit him behind his back
. SLEEP DEALER is the first feature of filmmaker Alex Rivera, and it’s so compelling and unique I was very disappointed to discover that he has yet to make a follow up. Someone give this fine moviemaker some employment! If you like the genre of politically-charged science-fiction as much as I do, then this one’s for you!
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