“When the press bows down to the authorities, the authorities will mistreat the citizens. This has always happened, worldwide, and it has happened to us.” –Catalin Tolontan

by Geoffrey Churchman

The above quote also applies in NZ nowadays with the obsequious nature of the country’s legacy media towards the Jacinda government. When the major media refuse to hold those in power to account, then these will do whatever they think they can get away with. The only checks on bad government in NZ sadly now come from a handful of sites like ours and whatever social media manages to escape censorship.

This documentary, nominated for two Oscars (Best International Feature Film and Best Documentary Feature), follows the events following the tragic fire in the Colectiv nightclub of October 2015 in Bucharest which had no functioning fire escapes. The audience tried to get out through the entrance causing trampling injuries to many in addition to those who were burned. 27 died and 180 were taken to hospital.

Worse followed, however: a further 37 died in hospital even though their injuries weren’t life threatening. Why?

It transpired that bacterial infections were responsible. One thing people take for granted at hospitals is cleanliness, but that was completely inadequate in Romania’s hospitals. The Romanian mainstream media fails to investigate these deaths, and Romania’s Health Minister, Nicolae Banicioiu, began boasting about the country’s medical facilities. It fell to a whistleblower and Catalin Tolontan, the editor of the “Sports Gazette”, to take up the hunt.

Firstly, it’s established that because of corruption the country’s main disinfectant manufacturer Hexi Pharma and its owner, Dan Condrea (who later dies in a mysterious car crash), were selling well-diluted product: on average it had only 10% strength. The country also had inadequate facilities to treat burns victims, but patients were denied or delayed transfers to proper facilities in Vienna or Germany due to pride and greed.

But there are deeper revelations to come.

Catalin Tolontan and his team slowly peel back the layers, and discover massive fraud and corruption. Protests and social upheaval follow, as the government politicians continue to tell lies. Continuing revelations led to the ouster of Banicioiu and others.

Former patients’ rights activist Vlad Voiculescu is named temporary Health Minister, and he permits total transparency by allowing documentary director Nanau unfettered access to meetings and phone calls. The camera follows as token reforms are instituted. Vlad Voiculescu acknowledges the whole healthcare system is “rotten”, and “we doctors are no longer about human life. We only care about money.”

The movie is powerful enough with the above, but it becomes even more poignant with inclusion of clips on the burn victims, especially Tedy Ursuleanu. Her severe burns left her head scarred and took one of her hands, yet she refused to hide, choosing instead to be photographed for all to see.

This is the sort of documentary that employees of NZ’s Newshub, TV1, NZME and Stuff should see, but I highly recommend it to all.