A different view: “Sleep Dealers”

This 2008 film, written and directed by Alex Rivera, is set in a future Mexico when water is even scarcer than it is now. Memo and his father have to buy water from a corporate water seller; the river which used to flow by their land has been dammed for many years, before Memo was born. Memo dreams of escaping his father’s pride in land ownership and farming, wanting to connect to the wider world. When he gets his chance, he takes it — losing much that he later realizes he holds dear. He arrives in Tijuana, gets robbed, meets a young woman who sells her memories to a company called Tru-Node, and finally lands a job as a node worker.

Nodes are how a human becomes a tele-presence employee, and guarantees a better-than-living wage for Memo, so he can send money to his family. This job, however, has drawbacks. It can leave a worker blind, drain one’s energy at a faster-than-healthier rate, or even be lethal.

Memo begins to question what he’s doing so far from home. He believes there’s something else he can do besides work too much. When he’s contacted by a man from the US who travels to Tijuana to meet him, and offers to help Memo, an idea germinates in his mind and is brought to fruition. This idea becomes action and offers reconciliation in many forms, to Memo as well as those he knows.

The fact that Memo’s story first entered the world as a film is startling all by itself. Science fiction has had a mixed treatment, at best, from US film producers and directors. Writer/director Rivera brings a fresh perspective to the SFnal ideas of social conscience, connecting with others in an increasingly tech-driven society, and becoming aware of more than what one can swing a snake at, and that’s just for starters.

Gently told, subtle and finely acted (with English subtitles for non-Spanish speaking viewers), “The Sleep Dealers” is another 5 star film that will likely not get much notice. What a shame.

Viva la revolucion.