CAPSULE: In what is perhaps twenty years into the future a small village near Oaxaca is dying because a foreign corporation has bought and dammed their river. Memo, a young man who inadvertently caused the death of his father, flees the village and goes to Tijuana where people have jacks installed in their arms to more directly interface with the Internet. Several technologies are projected into the future in a very believable extrapolation of the present. Alex Rivera directs a screenplay he coauthored with David Riker and gives us one of the best science fiction films of the last decade. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10
Memo, played by Luis Fernando Pena, lives in a remote village near Oaxaca in Mexico. Even calling Santa Ana del Rio a "village" may be overrating it. But the town has been pulled into the negative side of globalization. An international corporation has dammed the river that is the village's lifeblood and is charging the locals inordinately high prices for them just to get the water they need to live. Memo unintentionally gets the village destroyed and his father killed by American drones supposedly protecting the dam so- called "aqua-terrorists." No longer able to live in they place he has lived all his life. Memo flees from his village to Tijuana where he can get a tele-presence job doing work in the United States while never leaving Mexico. To work he has to use a technology that has not yet reached Memo's village. This provides the Americans what we are told they always wanted, Mexican labor without the Mexicans.
Jacks are implanted in the users' forearms so they can connect their nervous systems directly to the Internet, which they see with virtual reality. Installing jacks has replaced the drug trade in the illicit underground economy in Tijuana. The more Tijuana, "the city of the future," has been changed by cutting-edge technology the more it remains the same squalid border town crime center. Leonor Varela (Luz Martinez) is the love interest, who may be another danger for Memo.
Perhaps one problem is that the ending of the film is a little simplistic. One really wants to know what happened next and things might be very different for Santa Ana del Rio given a month or two. There is probably more to the story, but it is not Memo's story.
Director Alex Rivera gives us a film full of plausible evolutions of current technology with a believable if not pleasant feel for how these changes will fit into our world. Rivera throws in some telling touches. When the locals of Memo's village talk to local bots, the bots always speak first in English and then repeat in Spanish. English speakers get the advantage. Memo's town is shown in earth tones. When Memo is in Tijuana the scenery is colored in bright mostly-primary colors as if by neon.
I rate SLEEP DEALER +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 9/10. The film is in English and subtitled Spanish, though most of the dialog is in Spanish. SLEEP DEALER is available for streaming from NetFlix.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0804529/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/sleep_dealer/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2015 Mark R. Leeper