The International Feature Film Oscar nominee Collective, representing Romania, is an intriguing docudrama. It’s in no small part because the viewer thinks the story is going to be about one thing, but there continues to be much more to the narrative.
The title comes from Bucharest’s Colectiv nightclub. A 2015 fire there killed 64 people. But the majority of them died well after the conflagration. Why is that?
A group of reporters from, of all things, a sports daily newspaper, keep finding bits of the story, led by Catalin Tolontan and Mirela Nega. These are dogged investigators who might put Woodward and Bernstein to shame. Think of the movie Spotlight or other investigative films, without the Hollywood lighting and mood music.
The newspaper initially reveals one villain, a medical supplier. Did the company director know about the discrepancies in the product line? But this turns out to be merely the tip of the iceberg.
Knight to the rescue?
It is at that point that director Alexander Nanau pivots, rightly so, I believe. He then focuses on the personable new minister of health Vlad Voiculescu, a former activist after his predecessor suddenly resigned. Vlad’s job is to initiate a whole redo of Romania’s corrupt and inept medical establishment. Naturally, he experiences pushback from the systems, plural: medical, bureaucratic, and political.
Near the end, Vlad notes the lack of interest in hospital reform from Romania’s doctors, while the public grows frustrated with how slowly change is coming. He notes, “It’s like we are living in separate worlds.”
A minor, but compelling storyline involved the recuperation of burn survivor Tedy Ursuleanu and her nifty new mechanical hand.
Critic Roger Moore notes, “One can’t watch the… documentary… without feeling as if the film is a snapshot of America’s future.” This detailed review in Indiewire tells a lot more than I’m sharing here. 99% of the critics and 88% of the general audience applauded this movie.
Despite the many setbacks experienced by the protagonists, Collective shows the value of truth, and the importance of a free press addressing countervailing forces. The movie’s pacing is slow, especially early on, but it’s worthwhile overall. I saw it on Hulu. It is in Romanian, with subtitles.