Representing Past Futures: Approaches to Reading Alex Rivera's Sleep Dealer Today

Krista Brune, Justus Peña Berman, Jutta Gsoels-Lorensen, Mary Ellen Higgins, Ibis Sierra Audivert, Maria Truglio, Alex Rivera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sleep Dealer (2008), a science-fiction feature directed by Alex Rivera, offers a dystopian view of U.S.-Mexico relations: with the border fully closed, labor is extracted from economically desperate Mexicans through "nodes"and technologically delivered to the United States. Over the past decade, the film has emerged as a cult success, screening at festivals and in classrooms, garnering favorable critical reception, and generating scholarship in film studies, cultural studies, border studies, Latinx studies, and science fiction studies. This article complements existing perspectives by offering six different, but interrelated, approaches to reading the film, followed by a brief interview with the director. The interventions read Rivera's speculative vision of a near future not that different from our current reality through the lens of recent events. Rivera's film appears even more prescient and insightful in light of the rise of remote work as a tool to mitigate the virus that protected certain bodies via technology while leaving "essential"ones vulnerable; the proliferation of drones and other modes of surveillance; the digital mediation of our personal lives and memories; and the emergence of a technologized border that extends geographically and virtually beyond the physical borderlands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)578-605
Number of pages28
JournalComparative Literature Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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