Oscar-winning documentary captures Navalny’s life and potential demise


In the 2022 Oscar-winning documentary “Navalny,” Canadian director Daniel Roher asked Russian political activist Alexei Navalny what message he would leave behind for the Russian people if he were killed. Navalny, who passed away in an Arctic Circle jail on Friday, laughed off the question, remarking that it felt like a movie was being made about his potential death.

Navalny’s death has sparked shock and grief among his friends and supporters, including Roher, despite the known dangers he faced in Russia. Roher shared his surprise at the news of Navalny’s death and reflected on their friendship, which was built on a shared sense of humor during the filming process.

The documentary follows Navalny’s journey as he uncovers a plot to poison him with the deadly nerve agent Novichok. After collapsing on a flight over Siberia in August 2020, he was rushed to a hospital in Omsk, where an emergency landing saved his life. He was later airlifted to Berlin for treatment, where the German government found “unequivocal proof” of Novichok poisoning. The Kremlin denied any involvement.

One remarkable scene in the film shows Navalny tricking an FSB agent into admitting over the phone that the chemical weapon had been applied to his underwear at a hotel in Tomsk. The film also documents Navalny’s recovery, time with his family, and subsequent arrest upon returning to Russia.

Roher and Navalny became close during the two months of filming, despite some tense moments due to the subject matter. After Navalny’s imprisonment, they exchanged letters, which Roher cherishes.

The film, which explores Navalny’s mortality, was released before his death and received international acclaim. It is now being viewed in a new light following Navalny’s death. In the final scene, Navalny leaves a message for the Russian people: “We don’t realize how strong we actually are. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing. So don’t be inactive.”

Roher stated that making the film profoundly impacted him, and he sees Navalny’s life as a testament to courage, resilience, and light in darkness.

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