By Alexandra and Christiana
Exclusively from Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival
Romanian director Alexander Nanau, who mastered the art of filmmaking at the prestigious DFFB in Berlin, has been given many distinctions over the years, currently holding an imposing collection of awards: a France Culture Award received at Cannes Film Festival for “Toto and His Sisters”, two Gopo Awards, an International Emmy for “The World According to Ion B.” and multiple wins and nominations at Zurich, Montclair and San Sebastian International Film Festivals. This year, his gut-wrenching documentary, produced in collaboration with HBO Europe and provided by Magnolia Pictures, depicts the night of the disastrous fire taking place at the Romanian club, Colectiv, five years ago.
The documentary crew follows journalists as they investigate the unnecessary deaths that took place following a fire in the Bucharest nightclub Colectiv (“Collective”). After the fire, Romanian authorities insisted that burn patients were giving the utmost care and reportedly resisted sending them to better-equipped hospitals in countries like Belgium. What followed was that patients that could have been saved died not because of their burn wounds directly, but likely because of bacterial infections they contracted in the hospital from bacterial strains that should have been killed by the disinfectants.
This brutal eye-opener is a testimony that shows the desperate need for functional journalistic institutions in order to protect a country’s citizens from injustice and the ever-growing corruption. “Collective” illustrates the incompetence of the Romanian authorities in dealing with the health crisis which immediately unveiled as press journalists started documenting the story. The power of the media, along with the dissatisfaction of the public rose to international notoriety during that period of time, pressuring local state institutions to rethink their strategies and act in this urgent matter.
The crew welcomes the audience into an intimate setting - an intimate rollercoaster, if you will - as they follow the journalists discreetly. It is an incredibly powerful film that exposes a corrupt healthcare system. As Peter Bradshaw notes in his review for The Guardian, Romanian directors have long been telling stories of corruption in the healthsystem, but this time the story is real.
Journalism proved to be the voice of reason in a crumbling democracy, imminently facing collapse from inside out. After a street riot where thousands of people praised the journalists and demanded the dilution of corrupt systems, they were faced by an alarming conclusion: “In this country, the best investigations are made by a sports daily! That’s the state of our press”. “Gazeta Sporturilor”, led by the renowned editor-in-chief, Cătălin Tolontan, made hallucinating discoveries involving the hospitals the victims were sent to, and the disinfectant companies providing the needed stocks. Most shocking was the extent to which disinfectants were illegally dilute (some of them being even 2500 times less concentrated).
Rightfully so, “Collective” has been selected for festivals around the world, and has won various distinctions from the Pursuit of Justice Award received at Montclair FF, to documentary awards received at prestigious international competitions, such as Docville, Luxembourg City, Montpellier Mediterranean, Sofia International, Zurich and Tromsø International Film Festivals. Nanau's investigative masterpiece is beyond pure, urgent and devastating, easily making it the best documentary of the year and among the most impressive ones ever crafted.
Alexander Nanau, Cătălin Tolontan and everyone involved are worthy of praise, and so are the whistleblowers which helped set the whole machine in motion. Hats off!
Tedy Ursuleanu (Mariana Oprea), one of the brave survivors of the Colectiv fire