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Sleep Dealer
Sleep Dealer
Actors: Luis Fernando Peņa, Leonor Varela, Jacob Vargas
Director: Alex Rivera
Genres: Indie & Art House, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
PG-13     2009     1hr 30min

The place: Mexico. The time: The near future. Memo Cruz has always dreamed of leaving his tiny village and heading north to a big city where he can work in a modern, high-tech factory. Finally, his dream becomes a reality....  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Luis Fernando Peņa, Leonor Varela, Jacob Vargas
Director: Alex Rivera
Genres: Indie & Art House, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Horror, Fantasy
Studio: Maya Entertainment
Format: DVD - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 09/08/2009
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: Spanish
Subtitles: English
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Movie Reviews

The future of science fiction
avoraciousreader | Somewhere in the Space Time Continuum | 08/08/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Sleep Dealer, dir Alex Rivera, 2008, USA/Mexico.

The Future of Science Fiction 5*

I have seen the future of science fiction, and it is good, at least if this film has the influence it so richly deserves. Written science fiction is about so much more than the space opera and bug eyed monster tales and post-apocalyptic gotterdammerung that form the bulk of filmic "sci fi" that it is good to see the film world catching up. There have always been a few "real" science fiction movies that break the mold -- "A Boy and His Dog", "2001", "Blade Runner", even "Charly" (though that butchered the original wonderful Daniel Keys novella, the intent was there) come to mind. But most of those refer back to classic science fiction written works. What is great about "Sleep Dealer" is that it takes the vision of good written SF, with an original plot and theme, mixes it with the vocabulary of the special effects driven films that dominate the science fiction theater, and comes out with something wonderful. I hope this is an indication that the new generation of writers and directors (and not just Hollywood budget types, but independent and "foreign" cinematographers) have absorbed this vocabulary to the point where it is simply another tool in their repertoir, and will continue to use it judiciously to tell a new generation of adult science fiction tales.

Sleep Dealer combines a cyberpunk vision of the near future with a clear social vision and a dynamite plot and characterizations. Memo (Fernando Pena, with a tilde) is a young man in a remote and dusty Oaxacan village, Santa Ana del Rio. His father struggles on to raise crops on the ancestral plot since a gringo corporation dammed the local river ... going to beg a few liters of water, he and Memo are faced with a remote control, talking gun at the fence. Memo dreams of leaving the dusty town, and has a Rube Goldberg radio setup (with a manual "Hacking for Beginners" :-) that he uses to listen to communications from the outside world, in best cyberpunk fashion. One day he overhears com between a drone pilot and his base, but they detect him. He cuts the connection, but shortly thereafter, while he and his brother are away at a party, they see a TV broadcast of an American drone pilot's first mission, going after "aqua terrorists"

Memo flees to Tijuana to make money for his family as a plugged in worker -- the US border is totally shut down, so Mexicans toil by remote control from south of the border, using robots to the north. On the bus North, Memo meets Luz (Leonor Varela), a lovely young woman who is trying to make a living as a 'writer', jacking in and transcribing her memories directly into cyberspace for others to buy. She 'writes' a vignette of having met Memo, and what little of his story he told her. When he is mugged, she offers to get him the implanted nodes which will let him work .. and turns out to be able to do the "coyoteka's" work herself. Luz's writeup of Memo has an enthusiastic customer, who wants more material and she sees Memo again and again. Luz finds herself falling for him as he does for her. Eventually, they are brought together with the phantom customer, and the film winds to a surprising but seemingly inevitable conclusion.
Sleep Dealer is replete with nice little touches, such as the drone pilot being of Latino descent, from a military family; or the company Memo works for, Cybracero (cyber + bracero). The special effects may not be state of the art, but are perfectly adequate to the purpose at hand, that of telling Memo's story and presenting the world he lives in. And that world is very carefully imagined, firmly grounded in the realities of today.

In the press kit, which is available on line, director Alex Rivera describes Sleep Dealer as "a humble film ... an honest attempt to use science-fiction film to say something new, and something true, about our world today." He has succeeded in spades. A very enthusiastic 5 *'s.

Quote 1: When they dammed up the river, they cut off our future. (Memo's father)
Quote 2: "... and blow the hell out of the bad guys." (drone show host)
2008 Sundance Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award and Alfred P. Sloan Prize.
Complex and thoughtful
wiredweird | Earth, or somewhere nearby | 10/08/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This little sleeper of a movie winds together more different strands than any I've seen in ages. It variously explores American isolationism combined with a demand for immigrant labor, the rise of a commercial military, new kinds of sweat shops, armed escalation of the water wars, and the irony of social networking (in the electronic sense). As people interact more by wire, eventually, the wires become necessary for interacting even in person.

The major plot elements seem familiar - traditional society failing under pressure from the modern work, and the boy trying to support his family by working in the big city. A relatively recent stereotype appears, too: the soldier who we come to respect, even when he fights in a war that we don't.

This succeeds at many levels. It can be seen as an anti-American, anti-corporate diatribe, or as a grim extrapolation of today's headlines. Either way, it carries reminders that people will still reach out to each other, and that personal honor will continue to have meaning.

-- wiredweird"
Politics disguised as sci-fi
bernie | Arlington, Texas | 12/01/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Memo (Luis Fernando Peña) wants to escape his hard agricultural life caused by the US damming of their river. He does so with the aid of a radio interceptor. Little did he know that his hobby would lead to an unusual interaction and unique communication of three lives Memo, Rudy (Jacob Vargas), and Luz (Leonor Varela).

One scene that I can relate to is where Memo and Luz are at a rivers edge discussing life with his head in her lap. Even though this takes place in Mexico, I spent some time with my girl in a similar riverbed (Los Angeles) where it crosses with the San Jacinto River near a small park named Ford. Therefore, this had a more personal flair for me.

This is not a simple movie as not only stories overlapping but also the technology needed to tell the story is a collage of many sci-fi movies from before. I was interested in the main characters as a story however according to the voice over it is more of a political movement using technology against its self. They bend the system.

You will find a message for everyone on different levels. I think you will get the Memo.

You definitely need to see the two DVD extras "before the making of Sleep Dealer" which is almost a mini-tutorial on how to build and market a movie, and the voice over (in English) which tells all the nitty-gritty details of the movie including a more intricate use of resources. We learn that the war strike scenes are real footage from the net as are many of the other scenes and some verbiage is modeled on apache helicopter kill communications from u-tube.

Future of outsourcing
Albert F. Yuen | 01/26/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Unusual premise of a future where US jobs are outsourced to Mexico without having to cross the border. But to have this privilege, one has to have a medical procedure done -- "nodes" have to be implanted in the body to be "connected" to these outsourcing facilities. Most of these nodes are implanted by shady grey market dealers as I'm sure the fees for having them done at certified facilities are out of reach for the majority in search of work. Worth a watch."