“The Collective Affair” documents a state scandal with deep ramifications


It all starts out like a thriller, with its corpses, its investigation, its suspects, its anonymous calls, its informers, its intimidations and, everywhere, the velvet glove of obscure embezzlement. Except that it is not a fiction, but a documentary, and at its best: when the spinning reality makes you dizzy and reveals itself, scene after scene, each time more incredible.

The Collective Affair, fourth feature film by documentary filmmaker Alexander Nanau, retraces a news item turned into a state scandal, which occurred in 2015 in Bucharest, Romania, the consequences of which shed a harsh light on the corruption that plagues the country’s public structures. On October 30, while a rock group performed on the Colectiv Club stage, an element of pyrotechnics set fire to the buildings; in a few seconds a fire broke out, trapping the 400 or so people present in the premises – a cellar with only one escape staircase. Serious dysfunctions appear in the care of the injured. Forty victims died, less from their injuries than from a strange upsurge of nosocomial infections.

Suspicious deaths

The film is attached less to the sinister itself than to these suspicious deaths. To do this, he follows in the footsteps of journalist Catalin Tolontan, whose thrilling investigative work constitutes the narrative material of the film. First surprise: this obstinate investigator works in a sports gazette (Gazeta Sporturilor), a rare title to enjoy even a little independence – which says a lot about the state of the written press in Romania. Its main lead concerns the disinfectant used in most hospitals, diluted in unprecedented proportions by a crooked entrepreneur and bought ruby ​​on the nail by champion hospitals in false invoices.

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If the scandal splashes up to the Minister of Health, Patriciu Achimas-Cadariu, forced to resign, the guilt seems more diffuse, trickling down to all levels of the social body. In a direct style, firmly attached to the facts, the film nonetheless grants the image an important role: not aesthetic, the whole going so far as to assume a certain visual blandness, than that of revealing and proof. formal. In a striking passage, a whistleblower confides to Tolontan and his teams overwhelming videos seized at the hospital: of the wounded on whom the vermin proliferates. This is the key image of the film: a metaphor for the rot that is spreading across the country.

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