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Midnight Family - Film Review (Brisbane International Film Festival 2019)

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by Lloyd Marken (subscribe)
Lloyd Marken is a freelance writer with a passion for the arts who has been published with Scenestr, Heavy, Buzz, X-Press, FilmInk and Weekend Notes. Visit my blog at
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Midnight Family. Courtesy of the Brisbane International Film Festival website.
Midnight Family. Courtesy of the Brisbane International Film Festival website.

The 2019 Brisbane International Film Festival continues this week, showcasing movies from around the world. There are five participating cinemas with Reading in Newmarket, the New Farm Six Cinemas, the Dendy cinemas in Coorparoo, the Elizabeth Picture Theatre in the heart of the Brisbane CDB, as well as the home base of GOMA at Southbank and the State Library of Qld next door.

Midnight Family is a documentary that follows a Mexican family and ambulance crew. The weeknight screening we attended at New Farm Cinemas was full and one can only hope other BIFF screenings are similarly attended.

Over 9 million people reside in Mexico City where there are only 45 government ambulances on hand giving rise to a raft of private operators of which the Ochoas (two sons and a father) are one.

The joy of films screening at BIFF is to give a street-level view of other worlds and lives led, to open your mind, touch your heart and expand your knowledge.

With Midnight Family you won't be disappointed, this is health care like you've never seen it. Paramedics living day by day with no money, payoffs to cops, new equipment bought to meet new standards and patients who can't or refuse to pay them once they're safe and sound in the hospital.

These men hustle as well to survive, talking patients around to hospitals that favour them, racing at high speed to a site against their competitors and yet they're doing 'the job' and God help the people of Mexico City if people like them were not.

Ultimately the documentary is a telling indictment of a privatised ambulance service when overseen by corrupt officials. Through the eyes of the Ochoas, we see this is in microcosm and at the human level.

Director Luke Lorentzen knows how to shoot; the film is full of haunting frames of family members hanging around the ambulance during downtime with the city at night in the background. The excitement and danger of racing to the scene against other ambulances is as exciting as any Hollywood chase scene, probably more so. It is no surprise the film won a Special Jury Award for cinematography at Sundance.

Many patients remain off-screen as we observe the ambulance crew going to work while loved ones or bystanders look on. It's haunting stuff as you still hear them cry out in pain, see mothers tear up or the paramedics stare off in the distance after a hard job.

There's humour too to be found in the family dynamics, with the long-suffering father Fer trying to hold it together, his cocky and capable teenage son Juan and the opinionated youngster Josue playing off of each other. Gentrified audiences may fear for the boy Josue's eventual schooling and wellbeing but there's no doubt his family loves him and they are spending time together.

The documentary film is not for the fainthearted but perhaps that is fitting given that neither is the job of a paramedic.
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Why? For a fun night out.
Phone: (07) 3840 7303
Where: 6 cinema venues.
Cost: Full Price $16.50, Concession $12.50
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