VOD film review: Collective
Ivan Radford | On 11, Jan 2021
Director: Alexander Nanau
Cast: Razvan Lutac, Mirela Neag, Catalin Tolontan
Watch Collective online in the UK: BFI Player / Curzon Home Cinema / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Virgin Movies / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
30th October. 2015. A severe breaks out at Bucharest’s Colectiv nightclub. Taking the lives of 27 people and injuring 180 more, it was a horrific human disaster that erupted into a national crisis, after 37 of those injured later died from bacterial infections. Protests followed, then the gradual unravelling of an appalling web of lies.
Documentary filmmaker Alexander Nanau’s access is impressive, but that doesn’t take away from his storytelling instincts. He takes the footage he has and crafts narrative arcs and moral imperatives with a powerful sense of conviction and a compelling momentum. He captures the unearthing of healthcare fraud with the riveting precision of a 70s conspiracy thriller, but this is as sickening as it is gripping. From the footage of the fire itself to the endless press conferences and dodged questions, almost every frame is calibrated to give you a queasy feeling in your stomach, patiently building an irrefutable portrait of a corrupt country.
It’s telling that the person spearheading the uncovering of state-level deception isn’t a political correspondent but Cătălin Tolontan, a reporter at a sports newspaper – as one person reflects partway through, what does that say about the country’s press? From neglected patient wounds in hospitals to diluted disinfectant, what Tolontan digs up is gob-smacking, and Nanau deftly balances that snowballing investigation with human snapshots of survivors’ lives and political cover-ups – after a year-long emergency government is established to handle the situation, the appointment of a new health minister doesn’t exactly fill you with hope.
All of this is assembled under one of the most scathingly ironic titles of the past year, underlining the disparity between the many lives connected through a devastating incident and the lack of unity and support displayed by the indifferent people in positions of profit and power. The result is a bleak study of institutional wrongdoing, and an important reminder of the need for an independent and objective press to hold those responsible to account.