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Film of the Week An eye-opening exposé

MARIA DUARTE recommends an extraordinary documentary about a group of Romanian sports journalists who uncovered massive fraud and corruption in the country's healthcare system

Collective (15)
Directed by Alexander Nanau


THIS extraordinary fly-on-the-wall documentary shows how a group of investigative journalists at a Romanian sports newspaper uncovered massive fraud and corruption in the country’s healthcare system, enabled by the government, which resulted in dozens of needless deaths. 

It followed a fire at Bucharest’s Colectiv club in 2015 which killed 27 youngsters and injured 180 others. And then a further 37 burn victims died in hospitals afterwards — not from life-threatening injuries, but from bacterial infections they caught while admitted.

The film opens with some of their grieving parents questioning the official line from authorities, which claimed that their children had received the best care possible — better even than they would receive in Germany.

Over the course of 14 months filmmaker Alexander Nanau filmed the investigative reporters at the Sports Gazette who also doubted the official version as they pursued the story. They captured on camera a doctor who came forward to the paper and lifted the lid on the real state of Romanian hospitals — how they were unable to treat even one burn victim. That led to more whistleblowers contacting them and the truth coming out.

Nanau was also given unprecedented access to the system from within by the new Minister of Health Vlad Voiculesco, a former patients’ rights activist, who was determined to “clean house.” Nanau was allowed to film advisers’ meetings and brainstorming sessions before deadline, which was refreshing to see. It makes for a fascinating and eye-opening watch.  

Be warned that Collective does contain some harrowing scenes, including video footage of the fire breaking out at the club, with victims running scared.

Nanau delivers a nail-biting documentary-cum-political-thriller, with more twists and turns than a John Le Carre or Agatha Christie novel, and which ends how it started — with the victims and their families.

It shows the vital role investigative journalism still plays in uncovering the truth and bringing those in authority to account, at a time when press freedom and democracy is under constant attack from leaders screaming “fake news!” 

Maria Duarte 

Available on demand



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