Documentary film “Navalny”, which was recently nominated for Best Documentary Oscar, focuses on one compelling figure who has defiantly resisted against the Kremlin as much as possible. As closely observing how he and his colleagues investigated on a shocking attempt to poison him, the documentary gives us a number of powerful moments to remember, and you will come to admire his courage and dedication more while also wondering about what may happen next to him and others around him in the future.
At first, we are introduced to Alexei Navalny, and we get to know a bit about how this Russian politician has been a major headache for Vladimir Putin and his cronies in the Kremlin during last several years. There are a number of political figures opposing to Putin in Russia, and many of them are more or less than Putin’s puppets to distract Russian people, but Navalny was really defiant against Putin’s regime right from the beginning. As he drew more and more attention in public thanks to his natural charisma and leadership, Navalny soon became the No.1 enemy to Putin and his cronies, and, not so surprisingly, he was consequently blacklisted in Russia in one way or another. As a matter of fact, Putin has even refused to mention his name, and that tells us a lot about how much this tyrannical prick hates and fears him.
Because he was already attacked with some toxic substance a few years ago, Navalny was certainly aware of the constant risk around him and his colleagues, but, to his little bewilderment, everything seemed to be going pretty well for him when he went to a little city in Siberia in 2020 August for making another exposé video for his YouTube channel. This time, there was not much interference from the Russian Government, and Navalny could not help but worried as going back to Moscow a few days later.
Unfortunately, his instinct turned to be quite correct. On an airplane in the middle of the flight to Moscow, Navalny’s body began to show alarming symptoms, and then the airplane quickly made an emergency landing. When his wife Yulia and several colleagues of his hurriedly went to a local hospital where he was supposedly receiving medical treatments, they were blocked by local authorities for no apparent reason, and they naturally began to have reasonable suspicion on what was happening to Navalny.
After a short period of deliberate delay due to the Russian government, Navalny was eventually transferred to a hospital in Germany for getting the right treatment for him. As he gradually got recovered during next several weeks, it turned out that he was actually poisoned with a nerve agent associated with the Russian military, and everyone was naturally shocked by that for good reasons. Sure, Putin and his cronies have often attempted to eliminate their political enemies by any means necessary, and they got away with that more than once, but using that military nerve agent in question was pretty incriminating from the beginning to say the least.
Of course, Putin and the Russian government denied everything as usual, and there was not much possibility of exposing their assassination attempt on Navalny, but that did not stop Navalny and his colleagues at all. With the considerable help from Bulgarian investigative journalist Christo Groze, Maria Pevchikh, the head investigator for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, embarked on finding any clue for finding whoever was involved with the assassination attempt, and the documentary gives us a compelling presentation on how they diligently gathered one clue after another.
In the end, Navalny and his colleagues made a series of unexpected discoveries, which brought more light to the assassination attempt. They got a number of possible suspects who happened to be involved with the Russian intelligence agency, and they also obtained the information on several scientists who probably made that nerve agent for poisoning Navalny. All they needed now was a big evidence to be used against whatever Putin would claim, and we later get a quiet but undeniably tense dramatic moment as the camera simply looks at Navalny and his colleagues attempting to fool a certain target of theirs for extracting more information about the assassination attempt. They initially did not expect much, but, what do you know, their target turned out to be a lot more foolish than expected, and, to their disbelief and amusement, that figure virtually revealed almost everything to them without having any suspicion or hesitation at all.
Meanwhile, the documentary occasionally focuses on the personal aspects of its main subject, and Navalny is willing to tell anything in front the camera in addition to showing a bit of his private life with his dear wife and daughter. Yes, there was a time when he got himself involved with some nasty right-wing figures, but he is pretty frank about why he did that, and you can sense that he really cares about his country and people. Although he was quite well aware of the enormous risk in going back to Russia, he did return to his country for his numerous supporters out there once he was fully recovered, and the Russian government was certainly ready to suppress him by any means necessary.
On the whole, “Navalny”, which won the Festival Favorite Award and the Audience Award for the U.S. Documentary Competition when it was shown at the Sundance Film Festival early in last year, is worthwhile to watch for its very engaging presentation of its political main subject, and director/co-producer Daniel Roher, a Canadian documentary filmmaker who previously made “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band” (2019), did a commendable job of handling the main subject with care and respect without losing any human dimension. In short, this is one of the best documentaries of last year, and I certainly recommend you to check it out as soon as possible.
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