The Boston Science Fiction Film Festival - This new event connected to the Boston Science Fiction Marathon Feb. 14-15 noon to noon is a wonderful addition. Each night from now until the Marathon there will be a feature or a night of Shorts at 7pm at the Somerville theater. I encourage you to look into getting tickets for these event, if the rest of the movies are even half the quality of Sleep Dealers it will be a treat for anyone who comes.
Sleep Dealers (2008) - The setting for this film is a near future in Oaxaca Mexico, a young man named Memo (Luis Fernando Pena) is dissatisfied with his life. He seems destined to follow his father as an existence farmer on a small piece of family land. Once a more prosperous man his father now barely get by. The change on his fortunes came when the water source for the valley was privatized and the river dammed. Now the family pays most of their earnings for water to grow just enough food to live on. Here are a couple of very interesting ideas in the movie. The traditional turned upside down by a futuristic and not too unrealistic idea about resource management. Milpa farming of corn, beans and squash have been a tradition in Mexico through its history and the movie takes the time to recognize this. It is not using the location to exploit the character but to give a sense of them in the story to come. Memo sees this change with the dam as a trap and struggles with his father's idea about living on his own land at such a disadvantage. He would rather be somewhere else earning more money.
On his self constructed radio intercepting radio he hears the voices of people talking about working in the north for the Sleep Dealers. They are companies who import labor through virtual factories. Employees have implants that allow them to plug into a network that routes them to control machines in the United States. The labor force never has to actually be in the US, from the factories the workers all standing in a room can slaughter pigs in Iowa, to build a skyscraper in San Diego. Hearing about the success of the workers compared to sustenance farming is appealing to Memo. He listens in the evenings and dreams about a new life in the day.
One night while listening in of the airwaves he intercepts the signals of the US drone air force. This branch of the military is in charge of flying drone aircraft to enemy targets and destroying them. It has been popularized in a television show and unfortunately for Memo they trace his signal. This was another very interesting idea that is current but the movie takes to the next incarnation. No longer does the military just fight wars, but have been expanded into a corporate strike force protecting resources around the world being ship to the United States. They intercept the signal from Memo's house and put it on the list for investigation. When the drones arrive controlled by Rudy (Jacob Vargas) a new pilot serving in the military following in his families footsteps. A bit cliche for movies but certainly true for many servicemen of today. Rudy is commanded to blow up Memo's home, unfortunately Memo's father is in the house. Memo is at his uncles and sees the Drones show live and runs to try to save his father. The house is bombed and his father crawls out and looks into the drone camera, Rudy is ordered to kill him and does.
Two stories begin at this point, Rudy filled with doubt and guilt wants to know more about the man he killed and Memo without his father's will to hold him decides he must go north to earn money for his family.
We follow Memo as he moves north and meets a girl on a bus named Luz Martinez (Leonor Varela). She is a young woman who earns a living, collecting and selling her memories. She takes an interests in Memo and when she uploads her memories of him she is found by Rudy online. He thinking this young man is part of the story of his kill asks her to continue to collect information about Memo's father show he can be sure. There are again some very interesting ideas at play in Luz's relationship with Memo. On one hand she is doing business but because we are human she is also making emotional connections. The idea that she sells her memories of him is cold, but the thing this market finds valuable is that human connection. I think social networking is similar to this. In one way it is a superficial connection to more people on a daily basis but it also gives us more chances at actually making more deep connections if we choose to use it that way. Being human ultimately is about meaningful emotional interaction, we strive for that and feel healthy in our lives when it can happen. Social networks although allowing us to avoid deep contact also give us more opportunities to pursue them if we choose to.
Memo and Luz develop a fine relationship, she helps him get the implants he needs to work for the Sleep Dealers and gives him a friend in a strange place. He works and send money back to his family. Rudy learns that this is indeed the son of the man he kills and that he was not a terrorist and begins to doubt his mission. He decides to travel to Mexico and meet Memo. The storyline with Memo explores his work and draws a very nice parallel he is like the water in his home village a resource being drained by a foreign power for its gain but not a mutual one. Is this the solution the corporate world is looking for in our free market society? A workforce that is just a resource but not people?
The film climaxes with the meeting of Memo and Rudy and the interactions contained in that powerful relationship. Rudy agrees to do anything for Memo to somehow make up for his horrible error. I won't go into it here but it was satisfying.