Review: Navalny (2022)

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Navalny (2022)

Directed by: Daniel Roher | 98 minutes | documentary | Starring: Alexei Navalny, Yulia Navalnaya, Daria Navalnaya, Zakhar Navalny, Maria Pevchikh, Christo Grozev, Leonid Volkov, Kira Yarmysh, Georgy Alburov, Anna Biryukova, Fidelius Schmid, Tim Lister, Clarissa Ward

The life of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is much like that of a fictional, heroic politician from a Hollywood thriller. In the introduction of the documentary, Navalny asks whether the film can become a thriller if he is still alive during the editing. He is not just a freedom fighter with a big mouth. The documentary of the same name also shows a side of him that we have not seen before in the international media. We get to know Navalny as a man with humor who remains very calm under critical circumstances. The documentary by director Daniel Roher gives a unique look behind the scenes of one of the most talked about figures of recent years.

The weeks after Navalny’s poisoning are pretty absurd. During a flight from Tomsk, Russia to Moscow, Navalny suddenly becomes unwell and has to fight for his life. It soon becomes apparent that he has been poisoned, but by whom is not certain. Alarm bells are soon ringing in international newsrooms, because it would not surprise anyone if it turns out that the Kremlin is behind this assassination attempt. Fortunately, many images have been made of, for example, how much effort it takes for Navalny’s wife Yulia to see her husband when he is in the Intensive Care Unit. The strict surveillance at the Russian hospital and the fabricated reporting surrounding his poisoning are just one of many examples of how corrupt the Russian state under Putin’s leadership is. After being flown to Germany for treatment, Navalny counterattacks. This short campaign is captured by Roher and through this we also get to know the real Navalny. A playful, sporty man who constantly tries to expand his network with the help of social media. And with success, because the videos he publishes around the investigation into his poisoning are viewed millions of times and lead to protests against the regime in Moscow.

The documentary is not just being made to put the Russian anti-corruption activist in a good light. The questionable side of Navalny’s past with far-right parties is also briefly discussed. He has an explanation for it that isn’t very clear, but at least he doesn’t wave it off. That also applies to research agency Bellingcat, which helps Navalny unmask the people who wanted to kill him. It is interesting how transparent Bellingcat is in the process of verifying their sources. Much attention is paid to the way the investigation into Navalny’s assassination attempt is conducted. Unlike the Russian secret service, there are few secrets within Bellingcat. They even show how to get behind hidden data from Putin’s accomplices. In a humorous way, Navalny and his team show that the Kremlin’s approach is very amateurish. Putin will certainly not be happy with this documentary, as his spies and organization are being made fun of by a small team of activists led by Navalny.

‘Navalny’ is a documentary that not only shows the formalities surrounding one of Putin’s greatest enemies, but also presents Navalny’s stay in Germany in an exciting and sometimes funny way. His family is heavily involved in making his social media videos and they have a lot of fun together, despite Navalny’s safety being a major concern. We are introduced to the charismatic side of a brave man who fears nothing and will still make Putin sweat.

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