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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Sleep Dealer (review)

Here’s where we separate the real science fiction fans from the fake ones. If you don’t mind reading subtitles, don’t need tons of flashy FX, and prefer ideas over explosions, congratulations: you’re a real SF fan. Made on the cheap compared to Hollywood flicks, this thrillingly original and heartfelt Mexican film is a truly human story about the impact of technology on individuals and on society. Making his feature debut, director Alex Rivera (who cowrote the script with David Riker) envisions an entirely plausible near future in which Internet telepresence — you plug your head into a computer in the border town of Tijuana, for instance, and you can operate a construction robot in Los Angeles or a nannying robot in New York — has resulted in virtual immigration (give us your economically depressed workforce yearning to work cheap, but keep your foreign body at home) and a new era of not-so-virtual imperialism. We discover this world via Memo Cruz (Luis Fernando Pena), a poor farmboy forced into a job in a networked factory when his family is pegged as “aqua terrorists” — they didn’t steal water from the fenced-off, corporate-controlled dam near their farm, but someone sure did — and wannabe journalist Luz Martinez (Leonor Varela), who uploads her memories to the Net and sells them to the highest bidder… including a client willing to pay top price for her memories of her new friend Memo. Powerfully imagined, nicely performed, and demanding to be heeded, this is a startling and important look at the dangers and promises of the future from an angle most North American audiences won’t have been exposed to before. If you liked the new perspective on the genre offered by District 9, then you’ll welcome this one, too.

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watch at home

MPAA: rated PG-13 for some violence and sexuality

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
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