Alexander Nanau’s sobering film “Collective” is only the second movie ever nominated for Oscars in both the Best Documentary Feature and Best International Feature Film categories, but that’s not the film’s biggest Oscar landmark. Instead, “Collective” made history because it’s the first Romanian film ever nominated in the international category.
Just don’t expect Nanau to be bursting with nationalistic pride over being the guy to bring an Oscar nom to his home country. “I don’t really have these patriotic feelings,” he told TheWrap on Monday. “We live in an international community, and I think stories have to travel. The pride is more that this story is so crucial for Romanian society, and it was a turning point that changes the perception of investigative journalism and the courage of singular whistleblowers who can really change society.
“That’s something we really need now, when so many countries are dealing with manipulative, corrupt and incompetent politicians.”
“Collective” follows a team of Romanian journalists in the aftermath of a 2015 nightclub fire that killed 27 people. Another 37 more people later, many of them the victims of substandard medical treatment that was covered up by a corrupt government.
Nanau began working on “Collective,” he said, when demonstrations erupted in the aftermath of the deaths, and he became aware that government officials were lying about what had happened. “I really wanted to make a film about abuse of power — but when I started filming, it was a local story,” he said. “But when Brexit went through, I thought the world was starting to resemble what we were seeing in Romania. And I wanted to understand the human pressure that is on the shoulders of journalists in this climate of ‘fake news.'”
When he started to show the film to audiences in Venice in 2019, he said, he began to see how what he thought was a Romanian story “triggered something inside people from different societies.” And when the entire world subsequently became consumed with health care issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, he found even clearer connections.
There’s real irony, by the way, in Romania finally landing its first Oscar nomination this year. The country arguably had the most vital filmmaking culture of any country without an Oscar nomination in the Best International Feature Film category (or its predecessor, Best Foreign Language Film). In fact, after the 2007 Romanian film “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” failed to even make the shortlist, the Oscars changed the rules in the foreign-language category to create an executive committee that would prevent those kinds of snubs by adding three films to the shortlist in what became known as “saves.”
This year, though, the exec committee saves were eliminated over security concerns surrounding Zoom meetings — and after their elimination, Romanian cinema received its first nomination.
See the full list of nominees here.