February 6, 2021 – This documentary film is what you might get if you had a film crew to record what went on inside the Washington Post, and another crew inside the U.S. Department of Justice during the Watergate scandal, and if President Richard Nixon had remained in power despite all the publicity about his corruption and the Congressional prosecutions against him.
This documentary gets deep inside heroic efforts by journalists, and government reformers, working against massive corruption in the Romanian government and its hospital system. At the center of it is an unlikely hero, journalist Catalin Tolontan, working for a sports newspaper, Gazeta Sporturilor (The Sports Gazette).
Tolontan and his fellow reporters break a huge story about corruption in Romanian hospitals and medicine supplier, Hexi Pharma. Disinfectants supplied to hospitals through Hexi Pharma were diluted up to 10 times more than what was stated on the disinfectant bottle labels.
Because of the diluted disinfectants, combined with inadequate hospital facilities and levels of care, many people died of infections at Romanian hospitals who should have been saved. A related scandal erupted following a devastating fire at the Collectiv nightclub in Bucharest on October 30, 2015. The aftermath of that fire is what led to the investigations.
Twenty six people died and 146 were injured in the fire, but later, 38 of those injured died in Romanian hospitals. Lack of fire exits at the nightclub and illegal use of pyrotechnics, plus inadequate medical care for the victims led to mass protests and the resignation of the the nation's ruling Social Democratic Party.
Investigating the deaths of those injured in the fire, Tolontan and his fellow Gazeta reporters uncovered the story of the diluted disinfectants. Shortly after the arrest of Dan Condrea, the CEO of Hexi Pharma, Condrea dies suddenly under suspicious circumstances.
The Gazeta journalists scamble to find new sources to follow the story with Condrea gone. They discover that millions of dollars have been skimmed from Romanian hospitals and sent to other countries, as well as to the offshore accounts of corrupt officials.
Finally, the minister of health resigns and a reformer, Vlad Voiculescu, is named by the interim technocratic government to replace him. Vlad Voiculescu is the second hero of this story. The documentary filmmakers also have access to him. The film continues on two tracks, as both Voiculescu and the Gazeta reporters fight the intractable forces of corruption.
What they find is a virtual snake pit of corruption that leads in all directions up and down the government and all throughout the Romanian hospital system. Voiculescu tries to clean up the hospital system, but corrupt officials fight back, aided by co-opted TV journalists who amplify attacks against Voiculescu.
Both Voiculescu and the Gazeta reporters run into the same problems. There are only a few whistle blowers willing to risk exposing governmental and institutional corruption. Corrupt government officials have access to powerful media platforms to spread misinformation. The corruption is so vast that the public may not believe it even when it is exposed.
As a documentary about journalism and fighting corruption, this is as good as it gets. This is an unvarnished, clear-eyed presentation of what it is like to be a newspaper reporter or a government reformer in today's world. It ranks right up there with such journalistic gems as “Spotlight” and “The Post.” This film rates an A.
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