Staff picks: Alex Rivera

Staff picks: Alex Rivera


Clip from Alex Rivera, Papapapá, 1995.

January 3, 2022
Staff picks: Alex Rivera
Now streaming
January 1–31, 2022
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Since the 1990s, filmmaker and artist Alex Rivera has been making urgently critical and visually stunning films about exploitative immigration policies, surveillance technologies, and labor practices, combining genres that have ranged from documentary to animation to science fiction. Before premiering his widely acclaimed features Sleep Dealer (2008) and The Infiltrators (2019), Rivera produced a number of short films that situate immigrants’ lives within the larger system of global capitalism, and mockingly compare corporate and state ideologies. For this New Year’s edition of Staff Picks, we are excited to present three of Rivera’s humorous and critical early shorts Dia de La Independencia (1997), Why Cybraceros? (1997), and Papapapá (1995). e-flux Video and Film wishes a more hopeful new year to all!

The films will stream on e-flux Video & Film from January 1–31. Watch them here.

Dia de la Independencia, 1997
1:34 minutes

Dia de la Independencia is a satirical movie trailer that mimics the cinematic obsession with “alien invasions” (e.g. Men In Black, Starship Troopers, and of course, Independence Day). The xenophobic undertones of anti-alien sci-fi are inverted by imagining a racialized, righteous, alien invasion from South of the Border.

Why Cybraceros?, 1997
4:53 minutes

Why Cybraceros? takes the form of a mock promotional film. It is based on a real promotional film produced in the late 1940s by the California Grower’s Council, titled Why Braceros?

“This dystopic concept, of a world in which immigrants can labor in America but never live in, or become the responsibility of, American society, is to me not only a bizarre twist on the American Dream; in some ways this is the realization of the American Dream. The United States has always benefited from the low-wage (and sometimes free or coerced) labor of recent immigrants who are drawn to America, in part, by The Dream of economic success.  Simultaneously, nearly every wave of new immigrants suffers through several decades of intense discrimination, and usually a combination of verbal and physical attacks. The Cybracero, as a trouble-free, no-commitment, low-cost laborer, is the perfect immigrant. The Cybracero is the hi-tech face of the age-old American Dream.”
​—Alex Rivera

Papapapá, 1995
26:50 minutes

Papapapá is an experimental documentary that takes a humorous look at race and immigration, television and nostalgia, distance and the many ways people deal with it.

About the filmmaker 
Alex Rivera is an award-winning filmmaker whose work explores themes of globalization, migration, and technology. His first feature Sleep Dealer (2008), a cyberpunk thriller set in Mexico, won multiple awards at Sundance and Berlin. Rivera’s second feature The Infiltrators, a documentary/scripted hybrid set in an immigrant detention center, won the NEXT: Audience Award and the Innovator Award at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, was released theatrically in the US, and is currently being developed as a scripted series by Blumhouse. Rivera is a 2021 MacArthur Fellow, a Sundance Fellow, and was The Rothschild Lecturer at Harvard University. He studied at Hampshire College and lives in Los Angeles.

About the series 
e-flux Video & Film: Staff Picks is a monthly streaming series of staff picks and recommended videos designed to disrupt the monotony of an algorithm. Before the end times of big data, we used to discover suggested content along dusty shelves in video rental stores, where Post-it notes scribbled by shift workers implored us to experience the same movies that made them guffaw, scream, or weep. Sometimes the content bored us, sometimes it overwhelmed us, and sometimes, as if by magic, it was just right. e-flux invites you to relive this rental store mode of perusal, with personalized picks curated through judgment that does not take into consideration your viewing history. 

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January 3, 2022

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