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Hot Docs 2019: “Midnight Family” (2019) ★★★


People have different ways of making money – some work hard, some not so much. Some others work day and night just to pay rent and monthly bills. And from whatever is left, buy some food. At the end of it all, every job is fine if it brings stable income, isn’t it? The story told in “Midnight Family” is far from being simple. The Ochoas family runs a private ambulance, competing with others to pick injured patients off the road first. But are they right in what they do? Is it because of money or the love for people? There are many answers to this. But Luke Lorentzen, the director, felt right to document the family quest in such a way so that you could form your own opinion about it.

Set in Mexico City, the opening card in the film takes the viewer right into the details of Mexico City’s population, which is 9 million, but the government operates fewer than forty-five emergency ambulances, which can barely do the job. Sometimes, after a car accident, for instance, an injured person must wait for an hour if not more for an ambulance that may or may not show up in the scene. That’s where the Ochoas family come into the picture, by tracking down radio conversation, they arrive at the scene faster than others to deliver the patients to the hospital before it’s too late. As the cut-throat industry leaves no place for empathy, it’s the Ochoas family alone battling to save those who are in need, while they face harsh competition and the police’s never ending interference that rather puts people’s lives at risk.

The family operates a private ambulance legally. During the day they sleep, rest, plan the night, while the very next night is filled with all the drama, accidents, and blood. Sometimes it happens that the patient they are about to pick up has no insurance, and sometimes they have to ask for patient delivery money from a hospital personnel that is responsible for finance. How does that financing system works is something the film does not reveal. But that does not really feel necessary, as the whole point of it is to highlight one family’s struggle to make ends meet, but in the meantime do their best to not jeopardize the people that rely on them to survive the night.

Josué Ochoa at some point says, “I don’t like seeing people get hurt. But in the end, a doctor is a doctor because he likes dealing with sick people and surgery. There’s a reason for every line of work. If no one got sick, there would be no doctors. If no one died, morticians wouldn’t eat. If people didn’t litter, there would be no garbagemen. All these things create jobs. That’s the truth”. All these are truly justifiable when you find yourself analyzing the entire situation described in the film. Of course, some can say that why do they even have to do the job that police may not be happy about, or the hospitals that might delay with payment, or putting their own life at risk, after all.

In the end, as you watch “Midnight Family” and learn more about the Mexico City situation and how they fail to provide the same service such as emergency ambulances that must be operated in certain numbers to be able to reach any part of the city with no issues, the Ochoas family appears like Ninja Turtles, like super heroes that may not work for free, but commit more heroic actions throughout the night leaving everything else behind. Indeed, they do not have qualification enough to be the best first responder, but under given circumstances, they are the best option for anyone who’s stuck in the dark.

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