Heralded as one of the most important films about journalism ever made, Collective is an unflinching and unbelievable look at how a nightclub fire brought down the Romanian government.
A masterpiece about power, corruption and lies.
It started with a fire. In 2015, metalcore band Goodbye to Gravity were playing a concert at Colectiv nightclub when pyrotechnics ignited part of the building leading to a horrific disaster that initially left 26 people dead. However, over the coming days and months an additional 38 victims would die in hospitals despite some of them only having burns to 10 to 15 per cent of their bodies. Another 146 would suffer from excruciating and permanent injuries, leading investigative journalists from daily sports newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor to start looking into exactly what was happening in their supposedly state of the art hospitals.
Filmmaker Alexander Nanau is embedded with the team as they begin to uncover not one scandal, but an entire infrastructure built around them. Even within the realm of critically acclaimed non-fiction, Collective’s reviews have been borderline hysterical since its debut at the Venice Film Festival for a reason. Dubbed “a masterpiece” by Rolling Stone, its nearest points of comparison are not other documentaries, but rather narrative features like All The President’s Men and Spotlight because the story is just so sensational. It reads like a Stieg Larsson novel with the plot twists, horrific deaths, suspicious suicides, and mix of both insidious and righteous characters utterly captivating.
“When the press bows down to the authorities, the authorities will mistreat the citizens,” says Gazeta Sporturilor’s editor Catalin Tolontan at one point during the film. “This always happens, worldwide, and it has happened to us.” The body count and the scale of the scandal would be enough to make Collective essential viewing, but what truly elevates the film to another tier of investigative documentary filmmaking is the pivot to providing a fuller perspective from inside the government as those with the best of intentions try to change a system that’s “rotten” to the core. Like the journalists embattled with death threats and terrified medical stuff, Nanau’s quest is not to leave the audience with a happy ending but rather empower them with knowledge. What they do with that knowledge is up to them, yet the pursuit of truth and the journey to get there are just as important.
– Maria Lewis, Assistant Curator, Film
READ: How could a fire in a nightclub bring down the Romanian government?
Adina Dudau, The Conversation, Nov 2015
READ: A Film Unravels a Cover-up in the Aftermath of a Bucharest Nightclub Fire
Ela Bittencourt, Hyperallergic, Nov 2020
READ: Collective takes a scalpel to the contagion of corruption
Trevor Johnston, Sight & Sound, Nov 2020
6 & 9 Mar 2021
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Strong coarse language