Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Movie with Abe: Collective

Directed by Alexander Nanau
Released November 20, 2020 (VOD)

There are some tragedies that may not have been fully preventable, but that doesn’t mean the response isn’t very much capable of shaping what happens next. This is a phenomenon seen frequently, that communities band together to improve conditions and ensure that similar crises do not occur again, determined not to let the past repeat itself. Unfortunately, there are instances when, instead of true betterment, people either willfully or ignorantly attempt to rid themselves of blame and responsibility, insisting that things have improved even if that clearly is not the case.

On October 30th, 2015, a fire broke out at the Colectiv nightclub in Romania. Twenty-seven people were killed and nearly two hundred more injured. In the ensuing weeks, an additional thirty-seven people died while being treated in hospitals. Catalin Tolontan, a journalist for the Sports Gazette, investigated the reasons for their deaths and discovered that many of the disinfectants being used at the hospitals contained a tenth of the required chemicals. Along with his colleagues, Tolotan presses for transparency and a new plan from the government. After the resignation of key members of the ruling party, the new minister of health, Vlad Voiculescu, sets out to enact serious reforms despite considerable pushback from all sides.

This film has been collecting numerous documentary prizes and also serves as Romania’s official Oscar submission for Best International Feature. It’s a staggering indictment of the way in which abundant and pervasive bribery has completely tainted a healthcare system, where hundreds of hospital managers are suspected of being complicit. One particularly alarming comment comes from an accreditor who worries that public trust in hospitals will be compromised if it is revealed that he issued a certification that should never have been earned, but he acknowledges that the situation is exactly as it has been portrayed. Voiculescu’s plans also face resistance from those who assert he too is corrupt and has financial ties to the foreign hospital he believes can better treat patients than any local facility.

Much of this film is specific to the devastating Colectiv fire and to the way that Romanian politics function, but there is a universality to the very problematic conflicts of interest that exist and the desire to be able to report that things are going well even when that is far from the truth. That message should have particular resonance at the moment in the United States for those unhappy with the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, though the idea of diluted disinfectants might ultimately be more horrifying in a time where contagions are rampant. Both as an incisive chronicle of internal failings and an illustrative metaphor for self-interest anywhere, this film is a resounding and deeply haunting piece of journalism.


No comments: