2019 Sundance Docs in Focus: MIDNIGHT FAMILY

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Luke Lorentzen

Luke Lorentzen explores the tension-filled work of a Mexico City family that runs a private ambulance by night.

Festival Section:
US Documentary Competition

Sundance Program Description:

With striking vérité camerawork, MIDNIGHT FAMILY drops us directly into the frenetic nighttime emergency ecosystem of Mexico City. In the midst of high-speed ambulance rides, we meet the Ochoas, a ragtag family of private paramedics, who try desperately every day to be the first responders to critically injured patients.

In a city where the government operates only 45 emergency ambulances for a population of over nine million, the family acts as a crucial – but unregistered – underground lifeline. But the job is riddled with police bribes and cutthroat competition. And even though the Ochoa family has a reputation for being trustworthy, they must reckon with the sudden escalation in bribes that could force them to wade into the ethically questionable practice of making money off of patients in dire straits.

MIDNIGHT FAMILY maintains a breathless speed and urgency throughout. The camera is always exactly where it needs to be, capturing the intense textures and thrills of rides and rescues until, with each repetition, a subtextual story emerges – of a family and a society under profound financial and moral duress.

Some Background:

  • Luke Lorentzen

    This is Lorentzen’s sophomore doc feature. He received support from the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program for this project, including participation in the Creative Producing Documentary Lab and Summit.


  • Kellen Quinn

    This marks Quinn’s first project at Sundance. He was a Sundance Institute Creative Producing fellow for this film, and was also part of the inaugural class of Impact Partners’ Documentary Producers fellows. Quinn previously produced the critically-acclaimed BRIMSTONE & GLORY.

  • Daniela Alatorre
    Past Sundance docs:

    EL GENERAL (2009)

    Alatorre is the co-founder of Mexico City-based production company No Ficción. In addition to her filmmaking work, she is the head of the documentary programming committee of the Morelia International Film Festival, which she produced for a decade. Alatorre has previously participated in Sundance Editing, Music, and Creative Producing Labs.

  • Elena Fortes

    Fortes is also a co-founder of No Ficción. Prior to that, she co-founded and was the director of Ambulante for over a decade, where she remains a member of the board of directors. This is her first Sundance project.

Consulting Producers:

  • Jamie Meltzer

    Meltzer is a filmmaker whose most recent doc feature, TRUE CONVICTION, received support from the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program and went on to receive a special mention at its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival. He associate produced Lorentzen’s previous films. Meltzer is also an associate professor and the program director of Stanford University’s MFA Program in Documentary Film, Lorentzen’s alma mater.

  • Christian Jensen

    Jensen is an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker for the doc short WHITE EARTH. He is a graduate of Stanford University’s Documentary Film MFA program. This marks his first Sundance credit.


  • Paloma López Carrillo

    López Carrillo is an award-winning Mexican editor whose most recent work includes UNA CORRIENTE SALVAJE (Morelia), DEVIL’S FREEDOM (Berlin), and EL CHARRO DE TOLUQUILLA (Tribeca).

Consulting Editor:

Why You Should Watch:
With stark immediacy and through strong observational filmmaking, Lorentzen brings the audience on an extended nocturnal ride along with the Ochoas as they try their best to earn a living while providing an essential life-or-death service, despite ruthless competition and demoralizing obstacles.

More Info:
Sundance’s Meet the Artist profile

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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