Alexander Nanau‘s new documentary “Collective” looks like a strong Oscar contender in two categories. It has been selected by Romania as its official entry in the Best International Feature field. “Collective” could become the second film in Oscar history to be nominated in both that race and Documentary Feature. Last year Macedonia’s entry “Honeyland” was the first film to pull off this double play.
Magnolia Pictures and Participant will release “Collective” in theaters and on demand November 20. It currently holds a score of 9o on Metacritic and 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Let’s take a closer look at this red-hot Oscar contender.
Beginning with the deadly fire in 2015 at the Bucharest nightclub Colectiv, Nanau’s film follows investigative journalists as they track and unravel widespread corruption in the Romanian healthcare system. In doing so he documents a story about political accountability, the meaning of truth, lies and injustice, and the importance of a free and independent press. Those themes, perhaps without Nanau even realizing it at the time, are bound to resonate with the film community this year as the entire world continues to grapple with how those ideas have unfolded through the 2020 elections and pandemic.
Nanau’s approach to the film as an exposé is reminiscent of recent documentaries that have found success with the academy. Last year’s Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature, “American Factory,” was filmed in a similar “fly-on-the-wall” style that put the camera in the room with its subjects and let life play out without the added commentary of a more traditional documentary. That style creates senses of discovery and investigation that academy members have responded positively to in the past: the 2017 winner “Icarus” and the 2014 winner “Citizenfour” also come to mind.
While the investigative angle will surely be in the film’s favor with the documentary branch, it may work against it with the International Feature Film voters. The reason that only one documentary has ever been nominated in the IFF category might be because those who decided the nominee prefer more traditionally cinematic stories of fictional storytelling. Last year “Honeyland” was able to ride the fine line between the two with its intimate portrayal of the film’s subject.
“Collective” is Nanau’s fourth feature and would be his first to catch the attention of academy members with a nomination by either branch. So far this year his film is nominated for a European Film Award and was shortlisted by both the International Documentary Association and the DOC NYC festival.
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