REVIEWER: lyall carter
Director Alexander Nanau follows a crack team of investigators at the Romanian newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor as they try to uncover a vast health-care fraud that enriched moguls and politicians and led to the deaths of innocent citizens.
I sometimes wish that I could live multiple lives. I love the job that I do now but there’s so many others that I’d like to have a crack at - long form, investigative journalism being one of them. Some of my favorite films are Good Night, and Good Luck and Spotlight, films that highlight the absolute necessity for the fifth estate in a functioning liberal democracy. Collective is one of the most devastatingly powerful films in recent memory and stands as a rallying cry and a warning of the absolute necessity of normal, ordinary citizens speaking truth to power. Go and see it today.
In 2015, a fire at Bucharest’s Colectiv club leaves 27 dead and 180 injured. Soon, more burn victims begin dying in hospitals from wounds that were not life-threatening. Then a doctor blows the whistle to a team of investigative journalists. One revelation leads to another as the journalists start to uncover vast health care fraud. When a new health minister is appointed, he offers unprecedented access to his efforts to reform the corrupt system but also to the obstacles he faces.
In the midst of both the left and right of politics, even here in little old New Zealand (remember the flurry of vile comments about the media during the Prime Minister’s Covid standups last year?), is criticism of the media by the public. In an increasingly divided world of partisan and identity politics journalists are not held in the same esteem that they used to be. Collective shows us that we desperately need a fully functioning fifth estate and its power to start to really change things.
Collective does play like a journalistic Hollywood thriller and like the outstanding recent documentary film The Dissident, you have to constantly keep reminding yourself that this is truth on display and not some fiction. Director Alexander Nanau’s fly on the wall approach brilliantly helps to capture both Catalin Tolontan and his journalistic team’s investigative work and the government response to the crisis led by Vlad Voiculescu in a completely unadulterated and unfiltered way.
I won’t head too far into the narrative as I don’t want to spoil it at all but all I can say is that it will completely hook you and draw you deep into the narrative. At times you will be shaking your fist at the screen in disbelief, moved to tears by the senseless injustice of it all yet filled with a glimmer of hope because of journalists like Tolontan and politicians like Voiculescu. Collective is a reminder that the maintenance of a democracy requires each individual to be actively involved in it, not passively sitting on the sidelines.
Collective is one of the most devastatingly powerful films in recent memory and stands as a rallying cry and a warning of the absolute necessity of normal, ordinary citizens speaking truth to power. Go and see it today.