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Sleep Dealer

Even in such a slight genre as Mexican sci-fi this film has some great ideas, even if it's a little rough around the edges.

Villager Memo (Péna) dreams of a world outside his small-farm way of life. He's like a Mexican Luke Skywalker as he tinkers with his amateur radio, accompanying his father to buy water from the corporation who walled up the river with a dam and now makes a healthy profit off the locals, guarding their fences with remote controlled machine guns.

When his digital eavesdropping is picked up by the powers that be over the border, they send a drone in to wipe his village out while he and his brother are in Tijuana looking for work.

So far, so worthy. But a lot of the people around Memo when he travels to the city have strange ports around their bodies call nodes, which are expensive but can open you up to the wider world Memo seeks. In this near-future world, you can plug yourself into a network to share thoughts and experiences with others, the Internet enmeshed with neurology.

That means although the world has become even more militant and paranoid and a high wall now separates the US and Mexico, cheap Mexican labour is still employed as millions hook themselves up to virtual nannies and construction droids.

Memo's entry to the world is hot journalist Luz (Varela), who's behind in her rent and trying to get ahead by uploading memories onto the net for sale. After meeting Memo and hooking him up with nodes, everything seems fine. She's selling her memories of him to a far-off stranger but finding herself drawn to him as they slowly fall in love. And he gets a job building a skyscraper in the US (in some of the film's most overtly sci-fi but slightly video gamey sequences) so he can send money home to what remains of his family.

Romantic melodrama ensues when Memo finds Luz has been selling her memories and feelings for him, but a more action packed climax takes place when Luz's mystery customer travels to Mexico to find absolution – he's the pilot of the drone that killed Memo's father, and when he comes to face Memo and ask forgiveness, the warfighting infrastructure he used to serve gives chase.

There are some cool flourishes like the gung-ho TV show that showcases the armed forces 'bombing the hell out of the bad guys', but it has the hallmarks of an eager, imperfect early effort. Péna as Memo is pretty inanimate, the lack of a budget shows up a little too much on screen in the bigger sequences, and the romantic subplot comes across a little ham-fisted. But as a world-building exercise, it proves writer/director Rivera is one to watch.

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