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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Collective (MA) - 109 minutes

Graft and corruption of a magnitude the likes of which I haven’t seen.

That is the subject of an astounding Romanian documentary.

The immorality reaches into the highest echelons of the health system, killing patients who would otherwise survive.

And we’re not talking about the Middle Ages.

This just happened – in the past few years (30th October 2015 to be more precise) and it took an investigative reporter, Catalin Tolontan, and two of his colleagues, Irela Neag and Razvan Lu Ac, from a sports newspaper to blow the whistle.

Even they could not have envisaged just how widespread the tentacles of this scandal spread.

It all starts with a tragic fire at a dance club in Bucharest.

27 die and a further 180 are injured.

Within four months an additional 37 burns victims pass away.

It soon becomes clear that something far more sinister is at play here.

Bacterial infections have infiltrated the burns hospital and fire survivors are succumbing to them.

That is because the correct concentration of chemicals is not being used as a disinfectant.

Wrapped up in all of this is big pharma and greed.

Government messaging about best possible treatment and care are clearly a smokescreen.

The Health Minister’s overtures are worthless.

Hospital managers aren’t doing their jobs.

Neither are some doctors.

They are milking the system for personal gain.

A new health minister, Vlad Voiculesc – who used to be an advocate for patient rights – is appointed.

He vows to get to the bottom of what has been going on and root out the bad eggs.

But just when it looks like the situation couldn’t possibly get any worse, it does.

Then six months after the new health minister is installed, Romania faces a general election.

We are also privy to a brave, badly burned survivor of the inferno who lost fingers and the devastated father of a club patron who was one of the victims.

Collective is a devastating ride.

I sat in the cinema gob-snacked at what was unfolding.

We – the audience – are in the trenches as events unfold ... with the journos asking the questions, attending news conferences and hearing first-hand accounts of the carnage.

It is literally fly on the wall stuff.

If this was a feature rather than a documentary, I dare say patrons may consider it too far-fetched to ring true.

Despite the revelations, we witness disbelief and outrage, but not hysteria.

There is a calm deliberateness about how Tolontan and his fellow reporters and photographers go about their business.

Collective is a truly remarkable piece of work directed, shot and co-edited by Alexander Nanau.

It shines a blowtorch on a system that is rotten to its core.

It also paints an unedifying portrait of people supposedly in the business of helping others who are merely out to feather their own nests in the most heinous of ways.

Rated MA, Collective scores an 8½ out of 10.


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