The Romanian documentary Colectiv by Alexander Nanau is a clear statement on power and corruption. The topic is the fire that broke out during a concert in the club of the same name in Bucharest in 2015. In the ensuing chaos, 27 people died almost instantly. In the following weeks, however, as many as 37 more people died because of the lamentable state of the hospitals, allowing deadly infections to take hold.
The film exposes corruption in government as well as in the private sector. And, rather than by the mass media, the scandal was uncovered by a tiny sports paper, Gazeta Sporturilor. In fact, the film ends up with the government being overthrown.
Journalist Catalin Tolontan and his colleagues – which we awarded with a 10 (!) minutes applause in Venice – uncovered how one party after another leeched on government money. First among them was Hexi Parma, entrusted with delivering antiseptics to 350 hospitals – liquids they secretly had been diluting to a tenth of the original level of concentration. A doctor acted as a whistleblower and repeatedly warned that this disinfectant was ineffective – over a period of eight years. In the film, the minister of health denies ever having received these warnings. The owner of Hexi Parma who had been hiding money in foreign banks is indicted, but dies suddenly in a suspicious car accident…
Subsequently, the newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor followed up on the hospital executives and, helped by internal whistleblowers, reveled how they were sending substantial amounts of money to private enterprises abroad. And they also reveal how many of them have given false approvals in exchange for bribes.
The same old
The newspaper articles led to a number of demonstrations. After the fall of the government, a temporary government of technocrats was installed, where the activist Vlad Voiculescu became the new health minister, taking the side of the oppressed and making real changes. One of the cases we are shown is that of a corrupt mayor insisting that the local hospital is equipped for lung operations, despite an obvious lack of sufficient equipment. Voiculescu points it out in public.
Under the rule of cunning power, the truth must yield
But the changes wouldn’t last. Six months later, the same corrupt and populist politicians («the social democrats») are elected for government – and it is hard even to believe what is happening after all the scandals.
The rules of power
Under the rule of cunning power, the truth must yield. The tragedy in Romania is an example of how systematic corruption is deployed all over the world. And the corrupt care mostly about their own, like in Bucharest, where on economic grounds they declined offers to send their patients to Germany, even if many lives could have been saved.