Alexander Nanau interview: ‘Collective’ director
“Our lives can change within seconds sometimes and we become dependent, totally dependent on the community or society around us,” reveals Romanian filmmaker Alexander Nanau about what he believes is one of the core messages of his acclaimed double Oscar-nominated film “Collective.” “Our human survival depends on that,” he says. “We have seen during the pandemic that all our lives, around the world, the whole globe changed basically within seconds. Our lives became dependent on the communities we’re living in and on the competence of the governments we have.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Nanau above.
In “Collective,” a devastating nightclub fire leaves 27 dead and 180 injured, but then more burn victims start inexplicably dying in local hospitals. Following brave investigative journalists, whistle-blowers, burn victims and government officials, the film is an uncompromising look at journalism’s impact on a devastating health care crisis and widespread political corruption within the Romanian government.
The film does not shy away from confronting the audience with shocking real-time footage from within the Colectiv nightclub as terrified revelers run screaming for their lives as the fire rips through the venue. “Collective” then explores how from that devastating event, brave local journalists were able to expose the widespread corruption and incompetence tainting the nation’s broken health care system and on a wider scale its ineffective and power-hungry government.
“Collective” illustrates how a free and independent press and political accountability are critical to a functioning democracy. But what makes the film all the more compelling is how those ideas resonate through the prism of the last year, as the world continues to grapple with a calamitous global health care crisis that was often exacerbated by political instability and malevolent mismanagement.
Nanau confides that during production, as right-wing populism began to take hold across the globe, it became ever more apparent that the events following the Colectiv might have happened anywhere. “We couldn’t believe what we were seeing,” he explains. “We were filming on a small scale a global story because it seemed like all around the world that the people in power, who wanted to hold on to power and gain power and were lying all the time and were attacking journalists and were attacking the truth, it seemed like suddenly everybody was synchronizing,” Nanau says. “Like all these characters you also see in our film attacking the media and attacking the minister, it seemed like they all had the same script and the same director. It was like a pandemic. It took over like a pandemic, the minds of these perverted people.”
“Collective” is the first film ever from Romania to be nominated in what is now called Best International Feature and only the second film in Oscar history to be nominated in both that race and Best Documentary Feature, following last year when the North Macedonian film “Honeyland” was the first to pull off that Oscar double. The film has also racked up other accolades over the last few months, including Best Foreign Language Film at the National Society of Film Critics, Best Documentary at the European Film Awards, and nominations for Best Documentary at the BAFTA Awards, Indie Spirit Awards, LA Film Critics Association and National Society of Film Critics, to name just a few. “Collective,” which opened in theaters and on demand late last year, is also one of the best reviewed films of 2020, holding an impressive 95 at Metacritic.
Since 1966, 36 Romanian films have been submitted for Oscar consideration in what is now called Best International Feature, but this is the first time ever that Romania is represented in the category. Even more impressively, Nanau has the distinction of not only helming the first Romanian film in that category, but scoring the rare Oscar double, claiming a Best Documentary feature nod, the second time that has ever happened.