If living in this world has taught us nothing else, it is that we have long learned that when those in power lie and manipulate facts, a serpent of deceit is born and slithers through our societies devouring what is true and fair.
“Collective” is a Romanian film that examines cutting through bullshit fed to the public by corrupt people in power in order to get to the facts and achieve justice.
This is a masterful documentary highlighting the need for proper investigative journalism to keep the public informed and one that exposes those who would hinder justice.
October 2015. During a live music show at a Bucharest rock club, 27 people are killed and many others injured as a fire breaks out inside the establishment. On a rather brilliant stroke, the filmmakers allow the audience to experience this through a terrifying cell phone video recording of the incident, bringing home the horrors of what the victims experienced.
Soon after the fire, numerous survivors of the horrendous accident began to die while in recovery. Nothing about this seemed right so a band of newspaper reporters began to investigate.
What follows is a stomach-churning spotlighting of bureaucratic misinformation campaigns that become a cancer on the existence of truth, eventually seeping into every aspect of our society.
Director Alexander Nanau has crafted a deeply moral and interesting look at the corruption that defines much of the elite. The filmmaker examines corruption within the Romanian health care system and follows the investigations led by journalists as they struggle to uncover the truth.
That truth is an unimaginable fraud where a company that made the antiseptics for many different hospitals was found to have diluted them dangerously beyond the recommended levels. Doctors knowingly used bacteria-infested scalpels during surgeries and, at this crime’s most horrific, maggots grew from within many of the survivors’ neglected and unwashed bodies. Disease and death is what was awarded these victims who were put into the trusted care of the hospital staff and doctors.
Is the guilty party the hospital itself? The film would argue to the contrary, as it lays out its case, one that properly casts the pharmaceutical company and many doctors as villains. The company’s CEO dies in a car accident during the investigation, his death ruled a suicide, and although no evidence is found, it is obvious that he is a major voice silenced, whatever the cause of death.
In the most sickeningly display of hypocrisy, the country’s Health Minister gives speeches praising the “state of the art” health care facilities and crack team of doctors. The doctors he praises are found to be prostituting themselves to whoever has the most bribe money. If you cannot pay as much as the next guy, the doctors move on to where the money is. Do no harm becomes secondary to a cash grab.
The events, as sickening as they are, mirror the current trump regime’s neglect of a coronavirus pandemic that has killed almost half a million people in the United States. These cold and heartless professionals chase the money and people die. Families suffer. As this film shows, this is happening all over the world.
Just what is the price of a human life? The willingness to line one’s pockets at the cost of human lives is a tale as old as time itself but to see it continually happening today fills one with a deep outrage. Especially in the face of a tragedy such as this one.
Taking place over a full year, Nanau’s film meticulously follows the details of this tragic tale of people who didn’t have to die were it not for the deep-rooted corruption of the bureaucrats trying to save face and money. It is revealed how these men sought to remove any blame from being placed at their feet by twisting the truth so furiously that people could not tell fact from fiction.
The film’s heroes, editor Catalin Tolontan and his team of reporters, care about truth and the integrity of the communities in which they write about and their dogged pursuit is to be commended and envied. Their determination to take a machete to this overgrown jungle of lies becomes a rallying cry for us all. A demand for justice and mercy and a little human decency is what is to be taken away from this film.
The great thing about “Collective” is how it avoids becoming just another documentary filled with talking heads relating their experiences. What the director allows this to do is play out in real time, making this as powerful as any scripted thriller.
Nanau was given astonishing levels of access. His ability to get close to the Health Minister even as things fall apart and his interview with a doctor who snuck seriously disturbing footage out of the hospital is jaw-dropping.
“Collective” is a harrowing documentary. While set in Romania, it is made more frightening by the current state of 2020 America. It is an unfortunately relatable story for people in every country, as the sin of deceit runs deep among people in power.
“Collective” stands as emblem of hope, as we see how the labor of patient and deliberate investigative journalism can yield to resounding results.
“Collective” is a knockout, a gripping documentary that reveals how bureaucratic corruption can cast a dangerously unstable spell over many countries. A snowball of untruths can become a full-on avalanche, a disaster that ultimately will affect the planet.
If only people would listen.