NY Times, March 12 By Dennis Lim
“Sleep Dealer,” which won the screenwriting award at Sundance last year (the script is by Mr. Rivera and David Riker) as well as the festival’s Alfred P. Sloan Prize for the best film dealing with science or technology, envisions a future in which would-be immigrants remain south of the border and use network-connected robots to beam in their services.
“Their labor comes without their body,” Mr. Rivera said. “The idea struck me as a reflection on outsourcing, a reflection on the position that immigrants have in this country today, where they’re made invisible from the political system.”
Mr. Rivera, who studied political theory at Hampshire College, has been active in immigrant rights groups over the years. His father came to the United States from Peru, and many members of his extended family are immigrants.
“Sleep Dealer” is his first feature, but he has been making experimental shorts and documentaries since the 1990s. His previous film, a 2003 documentary for PBS called "The Sixth Section" was about a community of migrants in upstate New York rebuilding their village in Puebla, Mexico, from afar — a real-life microcosm of the world of “Sleep Dealer,” in which people are, as Mr. Rivera put it, “connected by technology but divided by borders.”
“Sleep Dealer” taps into the cultural and economic fears that have come with a globalized planet. “If you look at ‘Blade Runner’ or ‘I, Robot,’ the drama comes from the idea that the robots will wake up and want to kill the people,” Mr. Rivera said. “In my film people use machines to exploit each other. The robot doesn’t want to kill you. The robot wants to take your job.”
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Directed by Alex Rivera. 90 mins, Rated PG-13