November 19, 2020
In Alexander Nanau’s searing documentary, a heroic reporter investigates why the majority of victims of a nightclub fire died because of health-care fraud
Collective review – shocking exposé of needless deaths in Romania
For years, actually for decades, Romanian directors have been warning us about top-to-bottom official corruption in their homeland – an insidious malaise undermining the state and infecting the soul. Cristi Puiu’s The Death Of Mr Lazarescu (2005) is about an old man’s final hours turned into an ordeal by hospital inefficiency and insensitivity; Cristian Mungiu’s Graduation (2016) is about a doctor who calls in favours to fix his daughter’s exam results and Corneliu Porumboiu’s Police, Adjective (2009) was about the bizarre bureaucratic slowness of a police station. Now documentary film-maker Alexander Nanau has arrived with something to show that this wasn’t just mannerism or metaphor. It’s based on sickening fact.
Collective is about what happened after a horrendous fire at Bucharest’s Colectiv nightclub in 2015 which killed 64 people. It wasn’t simply official laxity about inspecting fire exits and building materials: the majority died later, not of their injuries, but of hospital infections. A heroically tough investigation led by Cătălin Tolontan, a reporter at a sports paper, Gazeta Sporturilor, showed that the disinfectant supplied to state hospitals was useless due to being secretly diluted. It is at this stage in the film you might be thinking about Harry Lime and his penicillin racket in The Third Man. The resulting surplus of taxpayers’ money lined the pockets of certain individuals in what can only be called Romania’s pharma-government complex. Tolontan discovered it was just part of Romania’s widespread corruption and gangsterism.
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