After weeks of covering the build up to the US Presidential election then the actual voting and ensuing chaos I was in no mood for a heavy documentary. I got the screener for “Collective” from the press agency. My first impulse was to write my press contact to pass on the viewing. The past few weeks have been exhausting. Like the rest of the world, I wanted to go brain dead. Being unfamiliar with director Alexander Nanu’s work did not help the cause, however this particular work unspooled at the Toronto and Venice Film Festivals. I had to give it a try applying my 20 minutes rule. If I don’t like it, stop.
For some reason the film popped up again in my email. An omen to give the film a try. My first thoughts: Sadly, “Collective” played into the stereotypical image of Romania. A corrupt country run by an openly incompetent government placing more importance on off shore bank accounts than its citizens. The ones screaming for change are outside the power structure.
There are no heroes in this film. Brave, foolish or naive depends on the viewers perspective. None of big questions answered. A tragic event sets off a series of horrific events. A night club fire kills or injures dozens of people. A medical system run by political cronies based on connections and bribery, not abilities. Alexander’s work pulls you in by showing how systemic rot affects ordinary people. Nevertheless, even exposed the crumbling system has abilities to protect and sustain itself.
“Collective” is timely in today’s climate. Free press is under attack. Large institutional power has little accountability.
The documentary’s strong reviews are well deserved. The Berlin educated director has made a work that stirs the mind. More importantly, the people running Romania should ask themselves “Why can’t we do better?” I could ask this of the US after the elections.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Collective is being released by Magnolia Films. Running time at 104 minutes.