01
Apr
10

Sleep Dealer (2008)

My interest peaks at any mention of lo-fi sci-fi and this seemed to fit the bill, despite its Sundance Institute polish.
I’m glad I came across this film, though I’m inclined to over-praise it simply because of the utter drought of good sci-fi around comparatively. Is this film like Starship Troopers (without the starship part), or high camp value (there’s one scene indebted to it)? Is it more like Hardware without the cyborg stuff (ok, not really at all)? Or WarGames without the suburbs (where am I getting these comparisons?)? Or Blade Runner without the replicants or punk sensibility? Or is it a little like Gattaca, if you replace the genetic stuff with bio-engineering and semi-paranoiac globalism? Well, it’s not really directly comparable to (or as good as) any of those films, but maybe worth seeing if you like any of them.

The plot follows a young man named Memo who lives in the dry seemingly empty desert of Oaxaca, Mexico. If he wants water, his family has to buy it from the American corporation that has damned it up and patrols it with mercenaries and robot drones. Needless to say, he wants to get the heck of out of there, which is why he builds some sort of shortwave radio to listen to conversations in the city.
Something majorly spoiler-ish happens to get him there and he starts working for the “sleep dealers” who hook your body up via nodes implanted in the skin to do manual labor remotely through a virtual robot drone (like building skyscrapers or picking oranges). The director calls this “tele-commuting immigrants” (“In the future everyone can work from home!”). This is apparently very hard on your body and is comparable to work that ‘normal people’ (read: non-immigrants) would never want to do. Lots of very clear negative commentary about late, global capitalism ensues.


While this is all happening he builds a relationship with a girl (there’s always a girl, right?) who loads her memories on TruNode where people buy them (nevermind the awe-inspiring technological ramifications of being able to see other people’s memories, they are simply a commodity like any other). This movie sounds ridiculous when I try to type out a description, but most fantasy does, right?
Can I type another sentence that ends in a rhetorical question and the word “right”?

So, I just wanted to point out that this movie exists, because it’s pretty impressive for a feature debut (which started filming with, of all funding sources, a $30,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation). Though, when finished, apparently very few people have seen this, presumably because it’s in Spanish (with all Latino actors) and it is sci-fi after all. Too bad.

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