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Participant and Magnolia Pictures Buy ‘Collective’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Participant and Magnolia Pictures have acquired North American rights to “Collective,” a documentary that followed a team of Romanian reporters who untangle an intricate web of corruption in the wake of a devastating nightclub fire.

The film premiered to sterling reviews at the Venice Film Festival and was greeted with similar acclaim when it screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Both IndieWire and Rolling Stone listed it as one of the 12 best films to come out of Toronto, and Vox called it one of the five best films that “flew under the radar.” Other reviewers were similarly enthusiastic.

Variety’s Jay Weissberg said that its look at bureaucratic and corporate malfeasance made “Collective” both prescient and sadly universal despite its Eastern European setting. “This is truly a documentary for our times, deserving of widespread exposure,” he wrote.

Magnolia and Participant plan to release the film theatrically in spring of 2020. “Collective” is directed by Alexander Nanau (“Toto and his Sisters”) and follows the aftershocks of a deadly fire at the Bucharest club Colectiv, one that leaves 27 people dead and 180 injured. After burn victims begin dying in hospitals from wounds that were not considered to be life-threatening, a doctor blows the whistle to a team of investigative journalists who set about to expose systemic health care fraud. With its look at the courageous side of the fourth estate, the film has been called a non-fiction version of “Spotlight.”

“’Collective’ is an amazing achievement in investigative filmmaking,” Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles said in a statement. “Alexander Nanau takes us down a wild rabbit hole filled with improbable heroes and institutional villains that should serve as a dire warning to everyone who believes in a civilized society.”

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“We are incredibly proud of a legacy of films about investigative journalists who expose corruption and injustice — from ‘Spotlight’ and ‘The Post,’ to ‘Citizenfour’ and ‘Page One: Inside the New York Times,’” said Diane Weyermann, Participant’s chief content office, “and we are thrilled to be working with our friends at Magnolia on Alexander Nanau’s absolutely extraordinary ‘Collective.’”

Participant and Magnolia have a history of successful collaborations, having recently partnered on the release of the Oscar-nominated “RBG.” That look at Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg grossed more than $15 million globally, a big number for a documentary film. The two companies also worked together on Oscar-nominated documentary “Food Inc.,” and will partner on the upcoming release of “Slay the Dragon,” a look at gerrymandering in the United States.”

“With Magnolia and Participant, I am confident that ‘Collective’ will find a wide audience in North America,” said Nanau. “I believe in the power of cinema, and hope to contribute with ‘Collective’ to a better understanding of the forces that shape our lives in today’s crumbling democracies. I feel honored to go on this journey with the best in the field.”

“Collective” is produced by Nanau and Bianca Oana. The film is an Alexander Nanau Production, Samsa Film Luxembourg, HBO Europe production, supported by Romanian Film Centre, Film Fund Luxembourg and Sundance Documentary Fund, with the participation of Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR), Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS), RSI Radiotelevisione svizzera, YES Docu. Hanka Kastelicova produced for HBO Europe and Bernard Michaux produced for Samsa Film Luxembourg. Executive producers are Antony Root and Philippa Kowarsky.

The deal was negotiated by Magnolia EVP Dori Begley and Magnolia SVP of Acquisitions John Von Thaden with Cinetic Media and Cinephil on behalf of the filmmakers, as well as Danice Woodley, SVP of Business and Legal Affairs of Participant.

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