Cătălin Tolontan, Oprea Mariana, Vlad Voiculescu
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…a frightening and important film.
There are several points during the course of watching Collective – a new documentary from Alexander Nanau (Toto and His Sisters) – where you have to pause and remind yourself that what you’re watching actually happened. This is a frightening and important film.
It all begins with a fire which broke out at the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest, where negligent planning – the club had no fire exits – led to the death of 26 people onsite. A further 38 would die in hospital, but not from the burns they had received. No, these unfortunate souls were victims of negligence within the very hospital that should have been caring for them; many of them dying of bacterial infections. The outrage was so loud that the Prime Minister and his party resigned. Nanau’s film follows sports and investigative journalist, Cătălin Tolontan as he and his team uncover the rot that has set in within Romania’s health care system.
Collective does not overstimulate its narrative with talking heads, narration or a bombastic score that tells you how you should be feeling. Instead, Nanau presents everything clinically, allowing the audacity of people to speak for itself. When revelations are made, they resonate not because they are shouted from rooftops, but because they are murmured with disbelief in conference rooms.
There are times when the corruption is so overt, it becomes covert and you can see the despair in Tolontan’s face as he wrestles with the idea of how things could possibly have gotten this bad. It’s a similar expression worn by the Minister for Health, Vlad Voiculescu, quickly sworn in after the last one resigned unceremoniously. His voice quivers slightly as he talks to a Doctor about the things she has seen and can only ask, ‘How the hell can all this be solved?’
At times, the film can be unbearably bleak with the only light coming from Oprea Mariana, who Nanau follows as she continues her life with 45% of body badly burned. Mariana is seen using art to process what she went through and it’s inspirational to watch her put herself out there.
As news channels, with their 24 hour rolling coverage, garner viewership through sensationalism, Collective is a fantastic portrait of how journalistic integrity still exists and how it can still stand up for things worth fighting for.