Early on in this remarkable Oscar-nominated documentary, Alexei Navalny is asked, “If you are killed, what message do you leave for the Russian people?”
Navalny is the handsome 41-year-old lawyer who campaigned against business and government corruption in Russia. His story reads like a John le Carré suspense novel as well as a high-stakes chess game. He makes an aggressive move and Vladimir Putin counters with a heightened near-death response. How does Navalny recover?
The wisdom of the filmmaker, Daniel Roher, a young Canadian documentary film director from Toronto, is evident. He could have covered Navalny’s whole complicated life, including his fluency in Ukrainian, because he lived with his grandmother in Ukraine during his childhood summers. (Yes, he is against the Russian war in Ukraine.) He could have elaborated on Navalny’s education in finance and law as well as his dangerously skillful legal suits against oligarchs. He also could have fully reported on the pretexts for which the Russian government repeatedly jails him.
But instead, Roher brilliantly focuses on one incident: Navalny’s poisoning by Novichok, a supposedly undetectable lethal nerve agent on August 20, 2020.
Blessed Angela Merkel, Chancellor of German at the time, orchestrated a gutsy emergency air-lift operation to transfer Navalny from a Russian to a German hospital. Here, it is confirmed that Navalny’s skin had been exposed to the deadly chemical developed at the GosNIIOKHT state-run chemical research center in Russia. Miraculously, Navalny’s brilliant German doctors were able to revive and sustain his life.
While recuperating in the German countryside with his wife, he plans his next move. With the help of some experts, in an ingenious on-camera phone conversation with Navalny, disguised as a Russian official, the perpetrator explains the details of Navalny’s poisoning.
The pyramid chain-of-command wall display points directly to the puppet master ordering Navalny’s murder: Vladimir Putin. Navalny plays with fire, over and over. Even after this last poisoning.
Shown on CNN, “Navalny” is a documentary that runs like a who-done-it. After the big reveal, seen by millions of Russians on social media, the hero returns to Russia to call for justice and face his arch enemy. The passengers in his airplane and the hundreds of supporters at the airport are proud to join the confrontation. But how will Putin respond?
While Navalny, at this writing, is still alive, his response to the question “If you are killed, what message do you leave for the Russian people?” is important to hear.
“Navalny” is documentary-making at its best. It is also an important record of just how brutal and power-driven Putin is. He can let no one threaten his power or his extraordinary wealth. Fair elections are story-tales. What turpitude Putin orchestrates for any challenger is revealed in this remarkable, Oscar-worthy film.
Director: Daniel Roher
Producers: Odessa Rae, Diane Becker, Melanie Miller, and Shane Boris
Featured: Alexei Navalny, Yulia Navalnaya, Maria Pevchikh, Christo Grozev and Leonid Volkov.
Cinematography: Niki Walti
Editors: Maya Hawke and Langdon Page
Music: Marius de Vries, matt Robertson and Anna Drubich
Release: April 11, 2022
“Navalny” can be accessed through Xfinity – just say Navalny into your remote’s microphone.
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