Monday, October 5, 2009

Latino brings film to Gainsville

'Sleep Dealer' being shown today, a highlight of Latino Film Festival
By Dante Lima,, October 2, 2009

What: 5th Annual Gainesville Latino Film Festival presents "Sleep Dealer" with presentation by director Alex Rivera
When: 2 p.m. today
Where: Harn Museum of Art's Chandler Auditorium
Cost: Free. For more information, go to

His father crossed several to get from Peru to the United States, his protagonist in the feature film "Sleep Dealer" uses an Internet portal to get from Mexico to the U.S. and his idol Pete Seeger blew them away when he used music to protest social and political injustices.

To Rivera, boundaries mean something has to be a certain way, and he says blending is what he does best. That's why the Latina Women's League invited him to speak Saturday for the screening of his socio-political, science-fiction feature as a part of Gainesville's ongoing Latino Film Festival.

"To tell a story about a culture, films don't just need to be dramas," Rivera said. "They can be musicals, or comedies or science fictions. We can and should have a film culture that can use the art form in its full potential."

That was the goal of "Sleep Dealer," to tell a story that bridged comedy, drama, politics and technology in a way that could touch on the complexities of modern life.

The movie's main character, Memo, is an uprooted Mexican villager who attempts to migrate north to the U.S. He finds the border has been built and sealed, denying a passageway to better opportunities. Through the use of the Internet, he connects his body to a computer that allows him to cross the border electronically and control machines on the other side.

Rivera said the movie is a culmination of what he's been thinking about.

"It looks at technology and the sense that our world is getting more connected, yet in some instances we feel more alienated from each other," he said.

Rivera uses the film to comment on current issues of immigration and border policy, as well. Immigrants offer a look at different worlds and cultures, and they are fascinating, essential educational tools, he said.

"You can see the whole world in an immigrant's life. If you listen to them, you can hear stories of the Third World, and then they come to the U.S. and end up in a metropolis like New York or Miami and they give you the First World perspective, too," he said. "It just seemed like a rich, exciting and controversial way to tell stories."

Even as the U.S. Hispanic population hovers around 47 million, Latino cinema is lacking in Rivera's eyes. The stories are there, often ripe with the political, social and economic complexities that filmmakers like Rivera seek, but they aren't being told, he said.

"(Latinos) are a huge part of the country. We are a huge part of Florida. But unfortunately we aren't a huge part of cinema," he said. "There are few feature films that address the issues of the global Latino community, and I am interested in contributing to that."

"Sleep Dealer" premieres today at the Harn Museum of Art's Chandler Auditorium at 2 p.m. The film has also played at the Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco Latino Film Festivals and the Sundance Film Festival.

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