Among other things, 2020 will be known as one of the best years for documentary film. "Collective" should be at the forefront of this list, a gripping and urgent doc that highlights the power and necessity of a free press.
"Collective" is a Romanian documentary about systemic injustice, centering on a story that is universal and should break all language-barriers. In 2015, a fire broke out at the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest, Romania, when a live band's pyrotechnics set some of the stage decor aflame. 146 people were injured in the blaze. Tragically, 26 people lost their lives that night. But what is even more unthinkable, is that 38 more would go on to die by infection at local Romanian hospitals in the days and weeks that followed.
As is uncovered by a team of incredible investigative journalists from the newspaper "Gazeta Sporturilor" in the documentary, the institutional powers-that-be - as a cost-saving measure - had been diluting the cleaning supplies used in hospitals all over the region. Worse, the government and hospital officials were trying to cover this negligence up from the public.
There are no "talking heads" in "Collective"...it instead puts you right on the ground next to these reporters as they meticulously scratch deeper and deeper into this avoidable disaster. They follow leads, press the spokespeople with tough questions and connect the dots that are revealed along the way. In fact, there is no chance whatsoever that any of this would have been made public if not for their work. This film doesn't preach about the importance of holding those in power accountable, it just shows how to do it. What an invaluable lesson in today's world.
All the while, "Collective" never forgets the tragedy of this corruption, that human lives were lost. We experience first-hand the pain of those that survived and those that lost loved ones. Accidents like fires breaking out happen, I guess. But more people died in the hospitals following the fire than actually died in the fire.
"Collective" needs to be seen, especially in this upside-down climate of some world leaders calling the press "the enemy of the people." It is a stark reminder that not only is the press not the enemy, in some cases like this one in Romania, they are the only ones fighting on behalf of the people's interest.
Run Time: 1 hour 49 minutes.
Directed by Alexander Nanau ("Toto and His Sisters").
"Collective" is available on VOD starting November 20th, 2020.
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