Sleep Dealer: Sci-Fi with Director Alex Rivera

Sci-Fi Buff

I made “Sleep Dealer” first and foremost because I love science fiction. I grew up reading “The Martian Chronicles” and, of course, watching “Star Wars.” As a teenager, I was fascinated by films like “Brazil” and “Blade Runner.”

However, as I got older, I realized that despite the genre's wild stories and countless special effects, there were some things that were unimaginableand that maybe there was an opportunity to do something radically new with sci-fi.

In any science fiction film, you always have at least two stars, the main character of the film, and the futuristic world itself. With “Sleep Dealer,” I'm trying to do something we've never seen before with both.

New Characters

The main character in “Sleeper Dealer” is Memo Cruz, a young man from a tiny village in the dusty desert in Mexico. Like the majority of people on planet earth today, he lives in the 'third world.' He lives in Latin American poverty, but dreams of something better. He has a lot in common with his my dad, who immigrated to the United States almost fifty years ago.

Sci-fi films almost always tell outsider stories, critical stories, yet so often the heroes are police or other authority figures. With “Sleep Dealer,” I wanted to put a new outsider–a would-be-immigrantat the center of the story.

The futuristic world of “Sleep Dealer” grew organically out of my work studying political theory. While I knew I couldn't make the biggest sci-fi ever, I did want to make the “truest sci-fi ever. The story of “Sleep Dealer” is set in a fantasy future that seriously imagines where our world might go.

Global Village

Two trends inspired my thinking about the future. One the one hand, I've been fascinated by the dream of a “global village,” inspired by the Internet. Thanks to technology the world is truly more connected now than ever.

On the other hand, as the son of an immigrant (some of my cousins are undocumented immigrants), I've been horrified to see the world becoming more and more divided. Borders are violent and increasingly closed. The attacks on immigrants around the world only seem to intensify. The “global village,” seen from the other side of a giant border wall, looks pretty strange.

Divided by Borders

The concepts of a world connected by technology but divided by borders is the central concept of “Sleep Dealer.” This ironic reality pushed me to imagine a future in which borders are sealed, and immigrants no longer come to America.

Instead, in the world of “Sleep Dealer,” immigrants stay in their home countries, connect their bodies to 'the net,' and send their pure labor to robots in America. This is what used to be called the “American Dream,” five minutes into the future.

Other present-day realities inspired my futuristic fantasy: violent reality shows like “Cops,” private military contractors like Blackwater, remote control bombing drones like the Predator Drone, the trend of outsourcing jobs over the web, the impending global water crisis, and the ubiquity of video sharing sites YouTube to name a few. This is a science-fiction with many anchors in today's reality.

“Sleep Dealer” is my first film. It's not anything like a “Star Wars” or a “Blade Runner.” In many ways, it's a humble film. But it's also an honest attempt to use science fiction film to say something new, and something true, about our world today.