DIFF 2019: Day 4

Running With Beto is a fascinating documentary that provides a more intimate glimpse into the insurgent 2018 campaign of Beto O’Rourke as he travels across the state of Texas over the course of 12 months leading up to election day. The filmmaker has unprecedented access into the daily life of Beto and members of his campaign staff and family as his campaign begins rather unnoticed and all the way through his remarkably close race that catches the nation’s attention. What makes the documentary particularly noteworthy is that it provides the seemingly more authentic side of the charismatic congressman and does not shy away from showing his personal interactions, including the occasional curse word. Despite Beto O’Rourke’s loss, the film is still an important and unvarnished depiction of a real life modern-day political campaign and particularly its effects on a candidate’s family life.

J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius is a fascinating and entertaining documentary with one of the most unusual subjects that you will encounter in a film: it follows the creation and rise of a satirical cult known as the Church of the SubGenius established by a pair of self-professed weirdos in Dallas, Texas. With the intention of making fun of and revealing the absurdities of religious cults that began to form in the 1970s, the group was initially a very small gathering of comic book nerds who published a comical religious manifesto but became a unexpected sensation that was talked about in the national media, especially throughout the 1980s. The filmmaker is able to explore the group by incorporating interviews with the truly extraordinary founders with footage of the outlandish ceremonies and conventions eventually attended by hundreds of people. Although the subject matter is definitely not for everyone, the documentary is a wacky and sometimes disturbing sociological study of the truly bizarre things that humans will do and the hypocrisies of fringe religious organizations.

Midnight Family is a very intense and compelling documentary about a family who run a private ambulance service in Mexico City, a city of 9 million people with only 45 government ambulances available. It is a cinema verite glimpse into the nightly operation as they drive to the streets in hopes of finding a patient who they often take to a private hospital and are often given very little money for their services. Besides exploring the lack of services in Mexico, the film is also a personal story about this particular family in which the father is the owner of the operation while his younger sons, including a young adolescent, help run the ambulance at his side. The documentary shows the often complicated nature of their work by revealing that they depend on commissions from the private hospital and also must bribe police officers in order to get patients, and they do all this to make a barely manageable living.

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