Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sleep Dealer

The images above are stills from Sleep Dealer, a film by Alex Rivera

Robotic construction workers in New York remotely controlled through outsourced operators in Mexico.

A renegade fighting wars in countries he has never been.

A migrant worker who sells her memories of growing up in an undeveloped country to wealthy thrill seekers who do not actually want to experience their adventures first hand.

These are the roles of the three main characters of Alex Rivera’s new film Sleep Dealer, which discusses important political issues like globalization, colonization, immigration, and outsourcing in a futuristic sci-fi setting. I just heard about the film today via an interview with Rivera on Wired. The movie looks amazing—and it has already won some big awards at film festivals such as Sundance.

The movie discusses the same issues that urbanists are also discussing these days—urban migration, network culture, connectivity, situated technologies, urban computing, globalization, etc. One interesting point is that to achieve the futuristic, dystopian look he wanted he had to look no further than places that already exist. The photographs of Edward Burtynsky, the border conditions between US and Mexico (depicted in a still from the film above, which Rivera and his team did nothing to alter for the film), and the markets of Mexico City offered visions and settings for the film.

River says that the film is about connectivity, virtual and real, and whether increased connectivity will bring with it more hope, more justice, or more alienation. As he says, it is up to us to decide which direction it will take.

Check out the interview below:

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