the broader workings of a destructive system

Posted: July 9th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Film | No Comments »

they sound soooo amazing!

go to the link to read the other half, i’m lazy.

Sci-FI films aren’t all about white heroes obsessed with an all-powerful conquest to stamp out invading forces threatening the glory of Western civilization. Independent, first-time feature filmmakers Alex Rivera, a New York-based, second-generation Peruvian immigrant, and Jennifer Phang, a Malaysian and Chinese American, have infused their new sci-fi films with insightful political critique. Rivera’s Sleep Dealer and Phang’s Half-Life, which both had successful world premieres at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, offer fresh coming-of-age stories featuring surprisingly uncommon heroes-an amateur hacking migrant worker and a working-class Hapa tween.

Although they are set in futuristic, near-apocalyptic worlds with uncontrollable technological advances, obscene economic exploitation and environmental disasters run amok (eerily reminiscent of the current global climate), these two films don’t leave us hopeless. Instead, they provoke us to externalize personal power to reclaim what has been used against us: the revolutionary possibilities of technology and imagination. And they are due for more attention: Sleep Dealer is expected in theaters later this fall, and Half-Life won the Grand Jury award at New York’s Gen Art Film Festival.

Sleep Dealer seduces us with vivid colors and glossy special effects into a thrilling futuristic world packed with high-tech wonders that are at once familiar, petrifying and full of possibility. At its heart is Memo Cruz, a young amateur hacker who craves virtual escape from his water-starved small village home of Santa Ana del Rio, Mexico. It’s all entertainment until his radio signals get tapped by an American-based reality TV show hunting for "aqua-terrorists," revolutionaries who struggle against the pervasive privatization of water.

Forced from his home, Memo heads to Tijuana to work in a factory where people use their "nodes" — implants in their nervous system — to plug themselves into a global network of virtually-operated robots in the United States that do the jobs immigrants once did (from construction to childcare to sex work). "This is the American Dream," the factory foreman explains to Memo. "We give the United States what it’s always wanted: all the work without the workers."

Memo finds the possibilities of node technology to remotely travel around the world to be exciting until he realizes the human cost of a capitalist economy sustained by the same technology.

Across the border in the sluggish suburbia of California’s Diablo Valley, Half-Life offers another future through the eyes of doodling second grader Timothy Wu and his moody 19-year-old sister, Pam. The sun has reached its half-life, a scientific term for the time it takes for "one unstable element to decay and transform into another," and irrepressible solar flares blaze around the world. Playfully blending poetic reflection and teen/tween angst, Half-Life explores the emotional entanglements of everyday lives on the brink of transition. The kids’ increasingly temperamental mother, Saura, needs love so desperately after their father abandons them that she drowns herself in the distraction of her young, white, jock boyfriend, Wendell, whose dysfunctional presence is breaking the Wu family further apart. Increasingly stifled by a daily spiral of heartbreak amplified by a relentless soundscape of devastating news reports, Tim is inspired by the chaos theory’s proposition that any little thing can alter the course of reality.

Unlike the heroes of traditional sci-fi films that have an identifiable "bad guy" who must be extinguished in order to save both the day and Western civilization, Memo Cruz and Timothy Wu are trying to negotiate the broader workings of a destructive system. Director Alex Rivera asserts that there is no single evil in Sleep Dealer that can be obliterated, because the enemy is the "economic system of the so-called free market that surrounds the characters, manifesting itself in the privatization of water" among much more. These high-tech factories are called "sleep dealers" because after too many hours of being "plugged in" and having one’s life force channeled across the border, the node-workers can no longer keep their eyes open to see the real world they live in. sleep_dealer_movie_2.jpg

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