Sleep Dealer (2008): directed by Alex Rivera
Warning! Contains spoiler!
Memo (Luis Fernando Peña), a young Mexican, lives on a milpa in Santa Ana, Oaxaca with his family. Once, a river flowed through the milpa, which his father owns. But a few years ago, the Del Rio Water Company built a dam upstream. Now, residents of Santa Ana must pay $1/gallon to enter the facility and collect water.
In his spare time, Memo tinkers with discarded radio parts and builds an antenna to pick up voices from far away. One night, he overhears a transmission between Rudy (Jacob Vargas), a drone gunship operator, and his compatriots. His signal is detected, and tracked down to his family’s shack in Santa Ana. Live on TV the next day, Rudy carries out a mission to neutralize an ‘aqua-terrorist intercept’. As Memo and family watch on their TV, they soon realize that the target is the antenna on top of their shack. They run back to the shack, only to see it obliterated by a hovering drone gunship. As Memo’s father crawls out of the building, Rudy gets confirmation that he is a known ‘aqua-terrorist’, and Rudy fires a rocket at him, blowing him to bits.
Overcome with guilt, and needing to find a way to support what’s left of his family, Memo takes the bus to Tijuana, the Mexican ‘city of the future’. On the bus, he meets Luz (Leonor Varela), a freelance writer. He notices that she has ‘nodes’, or data ports, on her arms (as does Rudy). He tells her vague details of his background. Struggling for material to make ends meet, she submits her memory of meeting Memo on the bus to an online memory-trading service. To her surprise, her story of Memo is purchased, and the buyer offers a generous amount for another story on Memo, this time with much more on his background.
Memo goes to a shady alley in Tijuana where ‘coyoteks’ are known to hang out; they offer cheap, black-market installation of „‘nodes’, which allow an individual to go online, which can provide economic opportunities. Memo intends to get nodes and work at Cybracero, a sweatshop virtual labor factory, where workers are connected and operate remote-control robots all over the world – a form of cheap labor for the developed world. He is mugged by a con man instead.
Partially in order to gain his confidence, and partially because she likes him, Luz installs nodes for Memo. He makes relatively good money working for Cybracero, although the connections are not safe and equipment incidents can lead to serious disabilities. He sends some of his pay back to his family, who are amazed at how much he is making. Meanwhile Luz reports another memory of Memo, but her buyer complains she did not get the background info they asked for.
Luz gets closer to Memo and finds out about the milpa, the Del Rio company, and the death of his father. She relays this memory, and is paid handsomely. Later, Memo visits her and is let into her apartment by a neighbor; there, he sits at her console and discovers she has been selling memories of him. He leaves angrily.
The buyer of Luz’s memories turns out to be Rudy, who has been having doubts about the Santa Ana operation. Having discovered the reality behind what happened, he takes time off work to cross the border into Mexico and meet Memo. He tracks down Memo and confesses that he was the drone operator that killed his father, but wants to make amends. Reluctant, Memo eventually accepts his help.
Luz and Memo sneak Rudy into Cybracero after hours, where Rudy connects to his Del Rio security network, taking command of his drone. His coworkers notice him coming on, and ask what’s going on, and he tries in vain to deflect their curiosity. Eventually, we see that Rudy is piloting his drone to Santa Ana, and his coworkers, realizing he has gone rogue, give chase and try to shoot his drone down. The star drone operator manages to make it all the way to the Del Rio Water Company dam in Santa Ana, and he unloads his firepower onto it, reminding Memo of the times his father would feebly throw a rock at the concrete edifice. Rudy’s drone is taken out, but the dam has been destroyed. On videophone back to his family, Memo’s hears that the water is flowing again, and the town is celebrating.
Rudy, who can never go back to America, stays in the village outside Tijuana, selling water. Memo stays as well, but gives up sweatshop node labor for farming.
Un Matrix mexican, cu mexicani, despre mexicani, pentru americani.
Watch the trailer!
Update from The Onion: