Neon Phantom

Marrying documentary and musical, Neon Phantom looks at the lives and struggles of delivery workers in Brazil.

The film combines a lot of different styles, there are scripted drama skits, first hand narratives of real experiences, song and dance numbers about their frustrations. It’s an interesting choice. It gives a number of different ways for the workers to express themselves, but that has to be balanced against making sure it’s not just a big jumble.

Like I just got done saying in my In My Network review, the gig economy has basically taken workers’ rights back to square one. With no sick pay, you effectively have people working through a plague, delivering food. Folk talk about having to work even when positive for Covid, because it’s that or starve.

Many people work hungry, because they can’t afford to delay their deliveries by stopping to eat. All day they’re out on a bike delivering food to folk at home, smelling their tea, while hungry.

And if you’re driving hungry and tired, there’s always the chance you’ll make a mistake or get in an accident. People feel like, if they were hit by a car tomorrow, only thing to happen would be folk would complain their meal is late.

But not only is there no imminent solution, it feels like it’s not even discussed as a problem. All the way through the pandemic, there’s been ribbons, signs, rounds of applause. But when it actually comes time to give workers paid sick leave, paid lunch hours and safety protections, SILENCE. As more and more people are being pushed out of employment, or having to pick up second jobs because of poverty wages, delivery workers are becoming more ubiquitous, but even dressed in neon biker’s shirts, they and their struggles remain invisible.

You’d think that musical and documentary wouldn’t fit, but what can you do when you hear all of that but scream out in song? An interesting way of presenting an overlooked issue.