Collective (2019)

This Oscar-nominated documentary pitting bold investigative journalism against dirty politics reveals how the state could be complicit in the killing of innocent citizens as this eye-opening exposé shows us the shocking depths of corruption in Romania’s beleaguered healthcare system.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,270

Dir. Alexander Nanau
2019 | Romania | Documentary/Crime | 109 mins | 1.85:1 | Romanian & English
Not rated – likely to be NC16 for some mature themes and coarse language

Plot: A crack team of investigators at the Romanian newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor uncover a vast healthcare fraud that enriched moguls and politicians and led to the deaths of innocent citizens.
Awards: Nom. for 2 Oscars – Best International Feature, Best Documentary; Official Selection (Venice)
International Sales: Cinephil

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Government Corruption; Investigative Journalism; Healthcare System
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: Screener
Spoilers: No

Scoring two Oscar nominations for Best International Feature and Best Documentary, a ‘feat’ recently achieved by Honeyland (2019), Collective is in the vein of exposé-type investigative documentaries that aim at social, perhaps political, change, though it might just be a tad naïve to think that that might happen. 

We are brought into the heart of Romania where a serious confrontation between journalism and politics has opened up a fissure that could very well be permanent, one that is symptomatic of the unimaginable corruption that has been toppling the country’s healthcare system. 

Director Alexander Nanau begins his work with the harrowing ‘Colectiv’ nightclub fire that killed numerous youths, many of whom died in the hospitals that according to the government had the best and proper facilities and hygiene protocols to treat burn patients.  Everything’s a lie as Nanau follows a daring journalist in pursuit of truth. 

“When the press bows down to the authorities, the authorities will mistreat the citizens. This has always happened, worldwide, and it has happened to us.”

Collective may not be the most engrossing of documentaries with pacing and momentum seemingly a couple of notches too slight for its subject matter, but it remains to be a powerful revelation of how the state could be complicit in the killing of innocent citizens, while at the same time enriching the wealth of pharmaceutical companies in the process. 

Seeing this film now in the middle of a still continuing pandemic, one might ask: how would Romania’s beleaguered healthcare system have fared with COVID-19 if there hadn’t been this ‘timely’ inquisition to spark some kind of systemic reflection in the first place?

Grade: B+


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