Dreamer looks at immigration and human trafficking in a brutal, emotional manner: Mammoth Film Festival Review

The opening scrawl of Mohit Ramchandani‘s Dreamer states the horrifying statistic that there are 40 million people enslaved around the world today, and that this is more than any other time in history.  Each of those people had a dream and a destiny, and it’s Dreamer that highlights just one of those stories.

Now, given the optimistic title one would be forgiven for assuming Ramchandani’s film will be one of levity.  Sadly, but also quite truthfully, it’s a harsh drama that touches on the subjects of immigration, human trafficking, and one’s own determination in fighting for what’s right – even if that’s at the expense of your own existence.

Headlined by young Ari López, Dreamer focuses on his Jesús, a teenager in Mexico who believes his aspirations of furthering his love of soccer have arrived.  He’s of the understanding that his essential trading with a flamboyant businessman is for a placement in a soccer camp, but reality hits hard when he’s sold into a sweatshop in downtown Los Angeles; Ramchandani making it overtly clear how degrading and dirty such a setting is, with the sweatshop sequences being layered with a horror temperament that speaks to his previous directorial efforts on the short film Devil’s Creek.

To call the film ugly isn’t a criticism.  And Dreamer needs to be a mostly unpleasant experience for it to be as effective as it is.  What the film puts Jesús through is horrific and humiliating (if you take any issue with violence inflicted upon children then this will not be a remotely easy watch), and there are times when you have to wonder how much as an audience member you can take, but the sheer tenacity of the character – and López’s stunning, committed turn – paves the way for its eventual culmination; Jason Patric as an aggressive, though concerned police officer weaving in and out of the film, highlighting the oft-hopelessness there is wanting to do the right thing but being bound by certain laws.

Given Dreamer‘s relentlessness in showcasing brutality (some of the imagery present is truly wince-inducing) this won’t be an experience for everyone.  It will obviously speak to immigrants and people of colour in a much more affective manner – a viewpoint I have no right in commenting on – but there’s still a universality to Ramchandani’s overall narrative in that fighting for your own freedom is a temperament we should all share.


Dreamer is screening as part of this year’s Mammoth Film Festival, running physically between March 2nd and 6th, 2023 throughout Mammoth Mountain and the town of Mammoth Lakes, CA.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.