The film Sleep Dealer wonderfully accentuates and mirrors labor realities taking place near the Mexican-American border. The futuristic sense of the film shows the possibilities of how maquilladora labor can be exploited. The journey of the main character to the “node center of Mexico,” Tijuana, shows the harsh reasons why people leave their hometown village in search of a better life. The movie shows a hyper-inflated economy where the dollar is the universal currency of North America. Water is scarce and regulated by private businesses, instead of being free to rural farmers and peasants. The world presented in Sleep Dealer also shows an ultra-militarized border, similar to the former border between East and West Germany. Only this border is ruled by lethal technology and deadly robotic drones. The film is not meant to be a realistic representation of the future in a literal sense, but it does highlight the exploitation of workers in Mexico, and the demand for immigrant labor in the United States.
The most striking element of the film was the relationship between the fighter drone pilot and the main Mexican character. The drone fighter pilot was a Mexican-American who had been taught to disregard his Mexican culture and heritage and replace it with American patriotism, however his feelings warrant a different response. He dedicates himself to professing his sorrows and guilt over killing the other man’s father. This action is symbolic of two things: the Mexican migrants’ will to return to Mexico, and the will of people to continue to act humanely and civil. This is similar to the relations between Turks and ethnic Germans. Many Turkish immigrants identify with both countries and have pride for each. Also, relations are becoming increasingly better between the two groups.
Sleep Dealer illustrates the realities of immigration; the social persecution of various migrant groups in everyday interactions, and the will and strength of those groups to work together.
by Andrew Mase