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The Evolution of the Maquila - "Sleep Dealer" Review

Updated on June 6, 2021
Sam Shepards profile image

Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interests are science fiction and zombie movies. I also enjoy pessimistic and survival films a lot.

A great science-fiction piece isn't the one that uses better visual effects or has the most exaggerated ideas about the future. A great sci-fi piece is the one that makes an intellectual exercise to imagine the future, extrapolating the political, social and cultural context in that scenario.

How will technological advances influence our present? What will be the impact of the new scientific paradigms on social inequality?

In that regard, Alex Rivera's Sleep Dealer, even with all its shortcomings (starting with its imminent low budget), is an exceptional science fiction piece.

Rivera places us in the near future, where, just like today, the philosophical debate between the organic and the virtual is vital. Rivera, while making clear that technology ends up being used for the oppression of the weaker, shows us that it can also work to strengthen relationships and achieve humanity.

Sleep Dealer tells the story of Memo Cruz (Luis Fernando Peña), who lives in a country house in Oaxaca, Mexico, with his brother, mother and father. There, neoliberalism has advanced at gigantic steps, to the point of "cutting" an important river with the construction of a dam, in order to sell water at extremely high and unfair prices to the humble population.

Even with this complicated reality, the father of Memo--a traditional farmer--wants to instill in his son the importance of growing crops. But Memo loves technology and sees no future in agriculture.

Memo's ambition to access technological knowledge will cost him dearly. Thanks to his technological inventions, Memo manages to capture a radio frequency used by the multinational that monopolizes water.

The company discovers this and in an act of savage colonialism (with the law on its side), decides to use a drone to destroy the house where the "intruder" signal started, killing Memo’s father.

With a mixture of unfair guilt and economic responsibility, Memo decides to move to the border state of Tijuana in order to earn dollars and support his family.

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Because in this new reality, the concept of immigration and "American Dream" is twisted and even farther from social equality. The Mexico-USA border is completely "sealed", but immigrants are able to offer their cheap labor from their country, through the services of Sleep Dealer's warehouses.

There electronic implants allow humans to control the movements of different kind of robots (nannies, workers, drivers, etc.) in the United States. The "American Dream" concept is now an absolute cruel joke: It's only a "dream" for racist Americans, not allowing immigrants in their territory, but still exploiting their cheap labor.

Although the script of Sleep Dealer offers novelty and a clever, plausible dystopia that deserves to be fully appreciated, the final product lacks a little dramatic tension. The conflict and the antagonist exist, but are slowly spread during the hour and a half.

In its core, Sleep Dealer is a Sundance film that has the particularity of existing in the sci-fi genre. It's a refreshing twist on the genre, which unfortunately sacrifices entertainment in the process.

Movie Details

Title: Sleep Dealer

Release Year: 2008

Director(s): Alex Rivera

Actors: Luis Fernando Peña, Leonor Varela, Jacob Vargas, a.o.

3 stars for Sleep Dealer

© 2019 Sam Shepards

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