News / Film

Theater Near You: Sleep Dealer

Remember that movie A Day Without a Mexican? Where the gringos complain about ‘dem illegals’ and all of a sudden every last one of them disappears. Then, the real nightmare begins as the whiteys are left to cut their own grass, clean their own homes, and park their own cars. Oh, the horror! Supermarkets are empty, vegetables sold on the black market, and restaurants are filthy — all because nativists couldn’t handle all them dark-skinned lawbreakers hanging out at the Home Depot. But what if you could kick out all the brown people and still have cheap vegetables? What if you could still exploit people for their labor but not have them use up precious resources like health care or our crappy public education system? The nutty genius film director, Alex Rivera, has already imagined it for you.

Sleep Dealer isn’t your run-of-the-mill Sci-Fi movie. It’s in Spanish, it’s political, and it imagines the near future: a world of cyberbraceros, coyoteks, remotely-controlled drones, aqua-terrorists, and closed borders. Memo (Luis Fernando Peña of Sin Nombre) flees small town life in Oaxaca and heads to Tijuana. With a little bit of money and lots of small town naivete, he wanders around the big city looking for a coyotek who can turn him into a node worker. The tech version of the old “coyote” who would smuggle migrants across the border, the new coyotek implants nodes on a worker’s body, allowing the laborer to plug into a network that operates robots located on the other side of the border. The norteamericanos get what they’ve always wanted, an impenetrable southern border without losing access to endless cheap labor. In other words, “todo el trabajo menos los trabajadores.”

Animated dreamlike sequences, swirling colors, and trippy special effects set up the background for a love story wrapped up in the packaging of a science fiction film. Along with its sharp, pointed criticism of global economics, Rivera injects a witty sense of humor into his dystopian world, “connected by technology but divided by borders.” At a party elderly villagers dance to techno music, “música de los viejos.” A Tijuana bar offers its patrons “Live Node Girls.” (Don’t lie, that alone makes you want to watch it.) The cast is rounded out by Leonor Varela (Blade II, Voces Inocentes) and Jacob Vargas (Jarhead, Traffic, and you prob remember him as Selena’s brother in Selena). The soundtrack, featuring Bomba Estereo, M.I.S., Nortec Collective, and Fidel Nadal is pretty chido too. Whether you’re a scifi nerd or not, this is something you gotta watch. I guarantee you’ve never seen anything like it.

Sleep Dealer
Director: Alex Rivera
Country: USA, Mexico
Year: 2008
Language: Spanish

Where You Can Watch It: Hulu, YouTube