Midnight Family


A motorcycle delivery man is hit head-on by a drunk driver, and the only ambulance to arrive is operated by a 16-year-old who accidentally puts the neck-brace on backwards. This is an unfortunate reality in Mexico City, where many ambulances are for-profit operations run by untrained individuals.

Midnight Family is the story of Juan Ochoa, whose family started an unlicensed EMT business in the late '90s after buying a retired ambulance from Oklahoma. Working in some of the city's wealthiest neighborhoods, they use a black market police radio to locate and chase down emergency calls. When lucky enough to arrive first to an accident, they charge patients 3800 pesos (185 USD) for transport to a hospital.

Unlike many competing ambulance operators, who push ethical limits much too far -- extorting helpless patients or reusing disposable equipment to save money -- the Ochoas seem to be a trustworthy exception within this fraught industry. As desperate patients wait for hours when government ambulances are nowhere to be found, the Ochoas arrive quickly, filling serious medical needs. However, it gradually becomes clear that their approach to business is far more complicated. In a city where corruption and less-than-legal practices pervade everyday life, the family struggles to make ends meet and can hardly afford to behave differently than everyone else.

The story unfolds as the status quo of the Ochoas' business has been jeopardized by increased local police vigilance. Independent ambulances in the neighborhood are targeted because of an incident in which one operator abused and extorted a patient. While the new and increased police enforcement is more a way for corrupt cops to get bribes than it is a move to protect patients, the pressure forces the Ochoas to try and legitimize their business. The first step is purchasing a proper ambulance license plate.

Juan Ochoa guides us through this quest, his perspective offering a way of understanding the family's situation and the greater context of the city's emergency health care system. His youthful energy and ambitions to lead the family towards a better future contrast with his father, Fer, whose approach to business represents much of what is troubling in the world of for-profit EMTs. Aswe come to care for Juan and his family, we also begin to fear that their lack of medical knowledge and equipment, desperation for money, and long-term participation in an inherently corrupt system is a barrier much too large to legally overcome.

Midnight Family is a story about doing what you can with what you have. It asks us to consider whether the survival of one's family legitimizes wrongdoing, particularly in contexts where corruption is the norm. In humanizing a youngman's struggle within his family's ethically compromised business, this film explores urgent questions around health care, the failings of government and the complexity of personal responsibility.


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