“Buddyguard” follows a volunteer community named “Team Escort Ambulance Jogja”. The “T.E.A.J” helps ambulances to travel quickly and effectively through busy city streets. Through interviews and patrol footage, we learn about the struggles the volunteer organization faces.
Given that the “T.E.A.J” is specific to a certain area, the documentary acts as an introduction of the volunteer organization. “Buddyguard” is certainly aware of this, and focuses on exploring the need and history of such an organization. The concept of ambulances being hindered due to inconsiderate drivers or stuck in traffic is something that few will put much consideration into until it affects them directly. Addressing both the operations, as well as deepening understanding of why someone would risk their own safety to help others, is delicately handled and presented in a way that balances humanity with information.
A notably fascinating dynamic comes with interviews where the volunteer relay the emotions attached to their work. The mix of pride and anxiety becomes reflective of the life-saving process, and hearing volunteers talk through their experiences adds narrative depth. In a statement that initially feels misinterpreted, many of the volunteers convey happiness at the sound of sirens. However, as the documentary progresses and the subjects’ thoughts are further explored, this statement becomes understandable. Overall, the exploration of impassioned individual’s inner reflections, becomes as intriguing as the duty they perform for the community.
The footage within the documentary is not sensational, and largely shows routine patrols performed by the members. However, given the focus on safety, and an empathetic narrative tone, seeing the volunteers successfully complete an escort, has much more of an impact if they were to focus solely on hardships. Instead, past struggles and scary incidents are recalled in the interview process, and seeing these stories retold helps to better understand the mentality of risking your own safety to save others. There is a small degree of drama that comes by way of a semi graphic re-enactments scene. Regardless of whether the scene is effective, audiences are bound to have preconceived opinions on information presented this way. Thankfully, even for those who dislike re-enacted drama in their documentaries, it is a short lived scene.
“Buddygaurd” was certainly a pleasant surprise for myself, becoming one of those documentaries that in concept sounded needless or uninspiring, quickly subverting those notions through a strong emotional narrative and structure. The content here is really fascinating, and well presented, with my only complaint being in the title, which sounds more like a cute term of endearment, betraying the serious nature of the volunteers work and struggles. Misleading title aside, “Buddyguard” is an inspiring look into the lives of the exceptionally compassionate “T.E.A.J”, bound to offer some renewed faith in humanity.