Underground private ambulances competing for patients, begging for money and paying police bribes.
That’s what we witness up close and personal as we are front seat passengers alongside the Ochoa family in Mexico City after dark.
It is there that the government operates fewer than 45 emergency ambulances for a population of nine million.
Making a living for the Ochoas and others like them is difficult at the best of times.
They work hard and they take their work seriously, often transporting seriously ill patients.
Midnight Family explores urgent questions around healthcare, the failings of government and the complexity of personal responsibility.
The documentary, written, shot, edited and directed by Luke Lorentzen exposes an ethical dilemma at the heart of what is a decent family doing some heavy lifting.
Father Fernando and his sons, 17-year-old Juan and Josué, 9, are accompanied by Manuel Hernandez.
The Ochoas started their unlicensed business in the late ‘90s after buying a retired ambulance from Oklahoma.
Using their network of police contacts, the Ochoas pay a 300 peso (about $20) bribe for every accident call sent directly their way.
When they are “lucky” enough to arrive first to the scene, they charge patients up to 3,800 pesos (approximately $250) to transport them to a hospital, but many can’t or won’t pay.
And nor can the Ochoas force them to do so.
So, there are many days they earn nothing and their situation isn’t helped by increased local police vigilance.
Midnight Family is an eye-opener. You are left asking how a system like this can possibly be allowed to operate in a thriving metropolis.
Further, if the Ochoas are the good guys, what about the less scrupulous operators?
Lorentzen – who moved to Mexico City in December 2015 and lived around the corner from the general hospital – had unrestricted access to the Ochoas’ daily ordeal for six months. He made it count.
Midnight Family isn’t about neatly set up talking heads. In fact, anything but.
The whole thing is fly on the wall stuff, with the camera merely there to capture a series of situations involving patients, racing to the scene of an incident or accident, transporting the injured to hospital and interactions with police.
The Ochoas operate within an inherently corrupt, dysfunctional system, trying to scrape by … like millions of other Mexican families.
Do they cross the line? You be the judge.
Rated MA, Midnight Family scores a 7 out of 10.
You can see it now on DocPlay.