Screened as part of NZIFF 2019
In Mexico City, the government provides fewer than 45 public ambulances to service a population of nine million. Picking up the slack are a large array of private ambulance companies, whose pay checks depend on arriving at the scene of the emergency before anyone else. In this riveting portrait, documentarian Luke Lorentzen straps us in the passenger seat with the Ochoa family, a ragtag unit of emergency responders who make their living transporting the injured to local hospitals and then tactfully negotiating for compensation.
Led by Juan, the family’s teenage son (and most passionate paramedic), the Ochoa’s are forced to navigate a slew of nightly stresses, which include high-speed races with competing ambulances, extortion from corrupt local cops and the constant dice-roll of picking up patients who may be too impoverished to pay for the service.
By playing ride-along with a family in their own financial quagmire, Lorentzen embroils the viewer in a chewy moral tension, in which the audience’s investment can quickly lead to conflicting emotions whenever an accident comes crackling through the radio. While never foregrounding a political position, Lorentzen (the film’s director, producer, cinematographer and editor) offers an essential document of the messy ethics of healthcare privatisation, where financial incentives start to distort our moral imperatives. — JF
“Thrilling throughout, occasionally heartbreaking, and sometimes even darkly comedic, Midnight Family… is a modern day parable about… the corruption that takes root where governmental oversight used to be.” — Andrew Parker, The Gate