IIt was when the lead singer of metalcore band Goodbye to Gravity shouted that this wasn’t part of a show that the chaos had started.
On October 30, 2015, a pyrotechnic effect ignited sound-absorbing foam in the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest, Romania. Following the singer’s warning and a call for someone to find a fire extinguisher, a stampede ensued.
A two-part door that was only half open was the only exit from the room. As the fire escalated and club-goers screamed in horror, some opened the other half of the door, others smashed the windows, while too many of them stood still after being trampled in the rush to flee.
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The deadly fire killed 27 people and injured at least 180, and three of the club’s shareholders were arrested for negligent homicide, negligent harm and negligent destruction.
But after the embers stopped burning and international attention shifted to the next tragedy, the horrors did not stop. As told in the shocking new documentary Collective, indescribable political corruption and government fraud led to the preventable deaths of 37 others from the fires.
“It was a pretty emotional moment in Romania and it really sparked the whole country,” Collective Director Alexander Nanau tells The Daily Beast on Zoom. The deaths of the first survivors sparked protests across the country which resulted in the Prime Minister’s resignation. A journalistic investigation, which follows the documentary, revealed the deadly extent of the corruption that was responsible for it.
Official entry of Romania in the category of foreign language films at the Oscars, Collective is a Projector– Chronicle of journalist Cătălin Tolontan and a small army of whistleblowers working to reveal the ways in which the victims and the Romanian people have been swindled by those in power. They were led to believe that they were receiving proper and regulated health care only to make patients die in sometimes willfully dangerous and unfit conditions, as politicians, hospital directors and medical procurement officials filled with pockets.
Every day after the blaze, government officials held press conferences touting the country’s hospitals and healthcare capabilities, when in reality hospitals were not even equipped to treat a burn victim. Still, transfers to other countries with appropriate burning units have been repeatedly refused so hospitals can continue to collect money, as dozens of survivors have died in the meantime.
Even when patients were eventually deported by air for proper treatment, Romanian officials continued to lie, erasing victims’ records that they were suffering from infections because they were being treated poorly in Romanian hospitals, confusing doctors foreigners who received patients on high concentration antibiotics. for apparently no reason. Some withdrew the antibiotics from the patients and some began to play with the dosages and mixtures, confused by the changed files. In both cases, the patients died.
“The patients would be evacuated by plane, and the Romanian authorities said, ‘OK, good. They will not die in our hospitals, they will die in their hospitals, ”says Nanau. “It was political fraud.”
Tolontan’s investigation found that Romanian hospitals also diluted disinfectant solutions up to 10 times, leading to an overgrowth of bacteria, infections and, in some cases, worms growing in the victims’ wounds. The solution was provided under contracts with a pharmaceutical company who, along with hospital directors and government officials, knew about the fraud and benefited financially.
Thirteen of those hospital deaths are believed to be due to bacterial infections.
In the exclusive video clip above, the families of the burn victims who survived the blaze and died in hospital due to this corruption come together and painfully express their anger and frustration.
“It’s about what those parents stood for back then,” says Nanau. “They were helpless citizens whose children had just been killed by politicians and hospital directors who refused to transfer them.”
The scene represents the power of the moment in Romania at the time, of a popular uprising against its government when news of corruption began to leak.
“These are people coming together who know they were done wrong, but they can’t put their finger on it,” he said. “They know what was done wrong, but they have no way of holding anyone responsible. It was important to show the position of a citizen if he is not supported by the press and if he is not supported by a judicial system that holds people accountable.
The film, which will be released in US theaters and on VOD on November 20, is already available through HBO Europe, on which Nanau says it has become one of the most-viewed offerings on the service in Romania. While Collective has been on the film festival circuits for over a year, its release now brings even more relevance to its warning siren about government corruption, healthcare and preventable loss of life as the COVID pandemic -19 continues to ravage the world.
As a testament to his impact, Nanua also says reporters he spoke to told him that since the film became available to watch in Romania, the number of whistleblowers sending them advice or denouncing corruption during the pandemic has increased by approx. 10 times.
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