When a so-called documentary has you gasping at one moment and on the edge of your seat the next, you know it’s exceptional. Alexander Nanau’s Collective, from Romania, is just such a film. The title comes from the name of a nightclub that caught on fire in Bucharest one night, killing many people because there was only one exit. Even worse, many burn victims who might have been saved later perished because of bureaucratic issues within the country’s network of hospitals.
Filmmaker Nanau chooses to follow one fearless investigative journalist whose determination forces the Romanian government to answer for its sins. By exposing deep-rooted corruption in his country’s health care system he puts his very life on the line.
Later in the film we meet another hero, a former patient advocate who is named Minister of Health. This earnest, reform-minded fellow can’t be bribed and won’t back down in the face of threats. Again, Nanau draws suspense from a seemingly ordinary situation: with each reform, the bureaucrat puts his career at risk. How long can he last in such a high-profile job?
On paper this might not seem like the stuff of great drama, but on film it most certainly is. Nanau and his team of camerapersons and editors let the events unfold in real time and the results play like a first-rate Hollywood thriller. Collective is a timely reminder of the role journalists can (and should) play in any democracy. It’s also superior filmmaking.
Collective is playing in selected theaters and is streaming on YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Prime, and other platforms.