Can you imagine being in a nightclub living your best life when that elation quickly shifts to horror after a raging fire breaks. This blaze, on October 30th, 2015, in a rock club in Bucharest named Colectiv, killed 27 people and injured another 180. All at once lives were altered forever. When it becomes apparent that those who were injured and/or deceased were not being treated in the most sanitary of circumstances, the Health Minister (Vlad Voiculescu), his actions and decisions are under a microscope ultimately resulting in the demise of a government whose citizens have lost faith and trust.
With Collective, Director Alexander Nanau follows investigators at the Romanian newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor as they attempt to uncover health-care fraud that has enriched moguls and politicians leading to deaths of innocent citizens. It’s eerily reminiscent of what what is happening globally with COVID-19 where we have witnessed numerous politicians placing their own interests above the citizens who have elected them to office. Where you see insults being hurled against ‘social democrats’ simultaneously watching your eyes glaze over at photographs of dead burn victims with maggots in their ear. Or hearing the news that disinfectant made and distributed has in fact been diluted over ten times it’s strength. Why? For what? Outside of the opening statement, this film speaks for itself illustrating the importance of journalism and how it can enlighten the masses to realities of what is really happening behind the scenes. Which often times is the polar opposite of what we are being told.
Why do politicians struggle and resists every effort to do what is right? Enter Sports Gazette reporter Catalin Tolontan, who worked for a publication more invested in athletic issues than medical malpractice. He and his partner in crime, Mirela Nega are the Romanian Woodward and Bernstein, who through tense phone calls to revealing sources, obtain massive hospital data, and even administer their own chemical test, assemble the first of several exposés to explain the mounting death toll. Nothing can replace the images of victims with no fingers and charred skin trying to move forward or the scene with a family gathered in graveyard saying one final goodbye with tears staining their skin upon departure. It’s the same images and scenarios we hear about globally as thousand of lives are lost to COVID-19.
Nanau’s brave decision showing the demise of Vlad Voiculescu, a young, fresh-faced activist who has the daunting task of leading a transparent overhaul of Romania’s dysfunctional medical system, faces with obstacles every step of the way. And while Voiculescu may have invited the cameras capture the sincere nature of his efforts, it backfires showing him at odds with a no-win scenario. Ultimately, using his actions during the course of the film as a moral mirror. Collective truly is the best journalistic expose on film since Watergate. Produced by Magnolia Pictures, it is available for streaming now.