Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB
Original Title: Colectiv
Romania/Luxembourg/Germany, 2019. Alexander Nanau Production, Samsa Film, HBO Europe, Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, Centrul National al Cinematografiei, Luxembourg Film Fund, Sundance Institute Documentary Fund. Screenplay by Alexander Nanau, Antoaneta Opris. Cinematography by Alexander Nanau. Produced by Alina David, Hanka Kastelicová, Bernard Michaux, Alexander Nanau, Bianca Oana. Music by Kyan Bayani. Film Editing by Dana Bunescu, George Cragg, Alexander Nanau.
The tragedies pile up and horrifying truths are revealed after one fatal experience sets off a labyrinthine investigation into government corruption. In 2015 Bucharest, a fire breaks out at the Colectiv nightclub during a concert performance, the film includes footage of the event that is bone-chilling as patrons slowly realize that the blaze is not part of the show and struggle to get out the club towards safety. The fire leaves a number of people dead and many more injured, sent to hospitals with burns ranging from mild to serious. A public outcry over the club’s lack of fire exits and regulated safety inspections escalates to the point that the Social Democratic Party resigns and puts a provisional government in place. Meanwhile, many of the burn victims die in the hospital while being treated despite the fact that in many cases they were not suffering life-threatening injuries. A investigation by Romania’s Sports Gazette discovers that hospitals have been purchasing massively diluted disinfectants that the supplier, Hexi Pharma, has been selling at full price and has been leaving hospital patients vulnerable to infections thanks to this weak liquid not killing bacteria. The Health Minister resigns and is replaced by the optimistic Vlad Voiculescu, who gives the filmmakers incredible access to the behind the scenes world of him trying to root out the issues involved in hospital administration. There is pushback from government officials not wanting to have their policies of glad-handing exposed, but there are also very willing whistle-blowers who speak to the tireless journalists at the Gazette about what they witnessed and what really happened to the Colectiv victims. Weaving in and out of these dire scenes, director Alexander Nanau follows the experiences of Tedy Ursuleanu, a survivor of the fire who suffered third degree burns on almost half of her body and had her fingers amputated, who proudly takes part in an artistic photography exhibit related to a memorializing of the event. This film is a fascinating jump down a rabbit hole that takes on the flavour of black comedy considering how ridiculous many of the revelations are, then leads to the jaw-dropping results of an election campaign and how the people feel about a government that has been almost celebrated for its corruption. Nanau manages to maintain this cynical irony without ever undercutting the bravery of the investigators and doctors determined to tell the truth.
Academy Award Nominations: Best International Feature Film; Best Documentary Feature
European Film Award: Best Documentary
Toronto International Film Festival: 2019