Alex Rivera is known as the Peruvian Nostradamus, because his film Sleep Dealer, which was originally released six years ago, proved prescient on many levels. Now the film is being shown to US audiences at New York’s Urban World Film Festival.
This film does two things that make it relevant, Rivera told VOXXI. One is, its science fiction that predicted a bunch of things in the world with drone technology, which has become more and more prevalent. It also deals with the border wall, which has more and more of a kind of specter in Americas imagination.
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Taking place in the near-future Mexico, Sleep Dealer revolves around Memo Cruz, whose family is victim of a misguided drone attack. Now lost without his family, he heads north towards the U.S./Mexico border. However, migrant workers cannot cross this new world border because it’s been sealed off.
Instead, Memo ends up in a strange digital factory in Mexico where he connects his body to a robot in America. Memo’s search for a better future leads him to love, loss and a confrontation with a mysterious figure from his past.
It deals with technology and globalization, Rivera said. I think people are revisiting the film because it kind of predicts the future.
First, Rivera said that his 2008 flick is viewed as a legacy title at many film festivals because it broken new ground regarding the Latino experience. Just like the afrofuturism of the 60s and 70s, in which African-American filmmakers explored the black experience in space and the future, Sleep Dealer did the same for Hispanic culture.
Also, Sleep Dealer has been in sort of a dream state of its own for the past half decade after premiering and winning awards at the Sundance Film Festival.
We sold it to a distributor who went out of business a few years later and the film almost disappeared, Rivera said. We were very lucky after a lot of work to fight and get the film back. We got the rights back this year, and we re-launched the film with the backing of Sundance as a distributor. So thats another reason the film is being revisited, its being kind of re-released this year.
Now the goal is for the film to reach an even larger audience. Even though Rivera has already moved on hes currently working on a follow-up, as well as a hybrid fiction documentary the filmmaker said he has witnessed the power of Sleep Dealer and feels it needs to be seen by the Latino market.
The most surprising reaction I got was when we screened the film at a film festival in Mexico in a state that sends a lot of migrants to the U.S., Rivera said. People who saw the film saw themselves in it. To an American viewer, its a science fiction film and its got a bunch of maybe interesting but perhaps foreign ideas. But to folks in Mexico who are crossing a border that is patrolled by drones today, who are in the U.S. but sending money back to support their children who maybe they dont see for five or 10 years, they have virtual relationships with their children.
For people who live in that reality, the film is barely a science fiction. So that was interesting to hear people kind of talk about their own lives in relationship to this science fiction.
Sleep Dealer is scheduled for screening on Friday, September 19th.