IMDb Link: Collective (2019)
Director: Alexander Nanau
Writers: Alexander Nanau, Antoaneta Opris
Stars: Catalin Tolontan, Razvan Lutac, Mirela Neag
Synopsis: 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.
This is a shocking story that I am surprised I heard nothing about before watching the documentary. The subject matter of a nightclub catching fire during a concert, leading to hundreds of injuries and many deaths, sounds like it would be a large news story, and yet it happened five years ago and I hadn’t heard of it. This is the sort of story that needs to be told and documented, and more people should know of the many aspects that the Romanian government messed up during this incident.
The level of filmmaking in this film, especially for a documentary, is extraordinary. The team behind the documentary were given full access to the investigation, from the work the sports journalists were doing to the decisions that the government were making at the time. There is no post footage of interviews analysing the situation, because simply the filmmakers did not need to with how strong the narrative was with the footage they already had.
The editing, particularly in the first half of the film, is incredibly sharp and moves very quickly. From the start, it is clear what the viewpoint and purpose of the documentary is, and then the footage is shown of the actual incident from numerous viewpoints. It is incredibly hard not to watch that footage and not be left shocked by what happened, especially if you are someone like me that has gone to concert venues numerous times and felt incredibly safe in them.
What is important about this documentary is that it is not just about the investigation against the government. This is a dark story that impacted many people who survived with many burns. Yes, it is shocking when statistics are heard about the death rate, the level of treatment and the condition of hospitals during this tragedy. However, it is when we get to see and listen to the victims first hand that the reality kicks in that this has real implications. This was a necessary part of the documentary, and one that I wish we did get more of throughout.
If there is something I want to point out about this film, is that the ending does feel unsatisfactory. This is not because of the result of the ending, but because of how abrupt the ending actually is in terms of the filmmaking. It feel like a real conclusion to the story was not told, there were no ending text to clarify standpoints and to take the time to breathe and talk about the impact of this event on future laws. The film cuts at a rough pace, and gives the audience no time to dwell on what happened or what the implications were.
Regardless, this is one of the hardest documentaries to watch of the year but also one of the most important. I commend the team at the sports newspaper who took it in their hand to push for the right to proper healthcare and support for the victims, as well as the documentarians for getting as close to the story as they managed, a big feat given the final product. For a film that could be a contender in both International Feature and Documentary Feature, it deserves both of those nominations.
Collective is available to purchase for rent/own on Amazon Prime and iTunes.