Romanian director Alexander Nanau joined Deadline’s Contenders International awards-season event to talk about his searing documentary Collective, one of the year’s most acclaimed films as winner of the European Film Award for documentary. It is also Romania’s official entry to the International Feature Film Oscar race, as well as a strong contender in the Documentary Feature competition too.
The film from Magnolia Pictures and Participant is powerful stuff, focusing on journalists investigating the Romanian Health Care System which, in the aftermath of a tragic nightclub fire, reveals shocking truths about it.
Nanau gets remarkable cooperation for his own investigative docu, and that may be because the timing was just right in the country. “I think we benefitted from the short time in Romania where we felt we had to take our society back from the populist politicians and corrupt politicians,” he says. “I think it is incredible that whistleblowers, journalists and minister of health had the courage to let us shadow their work and life.” He adds that world events including Brexit and Trump’s election made this even more timely for the rest of the world, not just in his country.
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“When we started in 2016 there was a need to tell this story, but still it was a very Romanian story, but while we were filming we realized, beginning with Brexit, that what we were filming is what the world was about to form into,” Nanau says. “Every day we realized more and more how the world resembled what we were portraying.”
Nanau says he is a proponent of “observational filmmaking,” preferring to let events just unfold as he has his camera running, rather than planning much in advance. In so doing he also discovered the whistleblowers he found along the way were all women. There is a reason for that, he thinks.
“Women are more courageous. Women care more. In the case of Romanian society it is a fact since the fall of communism women develop much faster. They are smarter,” he says, also noting that it is true in regards to what is currently happening in fighting the pandemic. “And we can see worldwide the countries led by women handled the coronavirus much better.”
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