David Shoup

‘Collective’ shines a light on Romania’s deadly corruption problem

Tributes left for the dozens of people killed in the Romanian nightclub fire (Getty images)

A gripping Romanian documentary has made history as the country’s first film ever to be nominated for an Oscar in the international category. But ‘Collective’, which is also shortlisted for best documentary feature at tonight’s ceremony, isn’t a source of national pride. In fact, far from it: the movie shines a spotlight on the country’s rotten healthcare system. It follows a team of investigative journalists as they uncover deep-seated corruption in the aftermath of a deadly nightclub fire in Bucharest in 2015, that killed 65 people.

While 27 died on the night of the fire, many more died in the months afterwards. They lost their lives in bacteria-riddled hospitals that were not only ill-equipped and unprepared to deal with burns patients, but also caught using watered-down disinfectants. Shockingly, this fact was known to Romania’s national intelligence services, and the defective products used in 350 state hospitals for some years. 

The string of dark revelations about woeful healthcare corruption after the deadly blaze prompted mass street protests which toppled a government. These displays of fury became marked by two simple words: ‘Corruption Kills’. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has further exposed the decay in Romania’s healthcare system

‘Justice and accountability is the only way to prevent corruption in any society. But in Romania, as a citizen – you can’t believe in accountability,’ the film’s director, Alexander Nanau, told The Spectator this week. Nanau is appalled that, despite 13 convictions over the blaze, which was triggered by fireworks in a basement nightclub, no one is serving time behind bars almost six years on.

‘Collective’ is a brilliant, eye-opening film and it deserves the huge success it’s had. However, since the fire, and the journalists’ bleak revelations, little has changed in Romania’s healthcare system, and things may in fact have got considerably worse.

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