Friday, September 18, 2009

sleep dealer

Aili and I watched an interesting foreign sci-fi flick the other night:  Sleep Dealer.  Certainly
worth renting, especially if you have an interest in Mexican-US sociopolitics.  The best science fiction is speculative but realistic and tends to confront people's anxieties about the near future.  It can also approach difficult philosophical problems with a unique eye, given the enormous latitude it has in narrative.  Philip K. Dick, for instance, was particularly good at tackling tough issues, like the nature of human consciousness and "soul" (see "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" and Blade Runner).

Sleep Dealer is very much an expression of Mexican anxiety about the current and future state of migrants.  It takes place in a near future where the wall between Mexico and the US is fully established, rivers have been dammed and water reserves controlled by militaristic corporations, and migrant workers no longer actually physically enter into our country.  Instead, the desperately poor have "nodes" surgically inserted into the bodies, serving as an interface between computers/virtual reality and the human nervous system.  These people often end up working in factories where workers "plug into" jobs located across the border, and find themselves remotely controlling machinery.

For example, the protagonist, Memo, finds himself "inhabiting" a small robot that is helping build a giant skyscraper in Los Angeles.  Workers endure long shifts, often falling asleep while still interfaced, and periodically suffer dangerous surges of electrical feedback that can leave them blind or dead.  So even though the "migrant" is no longer required to travel into the US to work, their condition in life has not improved.  Memo lives at the edge of Tijuana, in a desolate shanty-town inhabited by old, blind men, former victims of the sleep factories.

Memo's story is an interesting one - full of more depth and emotion than you'd expect from a science fiction film with TV-quality CGI.   And both Aili and I found it refreshing that while the movie is infused with anxiety and threat, there is no explicit "villain."  There is a Mexican-American military pilot, Rudy, whose narrative purpose is left vague for much of the movie, who but plays a central role in the metaphorically uplifting ending. 

Provocative and recommended.

No comments:

Post a Comment