I felt the need to make a review of Navalny because it is one of the most recent examples of documentary filmmaking that requires our attention today. Alexandre Navalny is the leader of the Russian opposition part who since 2017 has tried to make Russia and the world aware of the blatant corruption of Putin’s government. During that period, it seemed there was another group who were trying to make Putin’s corruption evident to the world though not as subtly as Navalny had been working. This group of people were assassins who in August of poisoned Navalny with Novichok, a nerve agent meant to shut the body down and disappear without a trace. Luckily these assassins had only spent years planning this assassination and the quick response of medical officers in Siberia where they made their emergency landing saved his life. Now in his time away from home Navalny has taken the time to sit down with Canadian director Daniel Romer to make a movie about as he asks Navalny “If you are killed, what message do you leave behind to the Russian people?”. To which Navalny responded saying “Oh, come on, Daniel. No. No way. It’s like you’re making a movie for the case of my death. Please let it be another movie. Movie number two. Let’s make a trailer out of this movie and in case I get killed use that trailer as boring movie of memory.” This sense of humour and lively energy from Navalny is all over this film as it recognizes a man who is not only a freedom fighter but a man who knows how to live well with that freedom.
During his time in Germany as he recovers from his pass with death Navalny teams up with a Belgian who has made it his obsession to find data mine every nook and cranny of Russia. Together they find the men who had taken flights that followed him by crossing them over with employees of a place that claims to make Russia tops sport drinks. So of course, its where the deadly poison used on Navalny is made. With this information Navalny weaponizes his social media influence from platforms used exclusively in Russia, to Telegram, Facebook and even TikToks where he lips syncs to American songs, a fact Russia mainstream media try to make fun of him for. The content here is certainly worth the film alone as it tracks a man who was the target of a complicated scheme depicted by pictures and lines of red yarn looks like work of crazy conspiracy nut you see in this meme. If only that were true, all this planning and work to take down Navalny is very real.
On top of that Romer uses his access to reveal Navalny as a person, a married man whose wife is fiercely loyal and fights for Russia’s freedom just as much as he does. His daughter whose been constantly afraid of her father’s potential death as he’s been in and out of jail. In some ways her education in the USA has seen her disconnected from her father and his efforts but his escape from death helps them to reconnect. Navalny never stops being who he is in pursuit of true democracy in Russia and while he makes calculated choices to take down Putin’s government, he never crosses the line or has let the pressure of being a political figure change his fundamental values. This is probably a part of Navalny Putin cannot stand as he and the rest of the Russian administration refuse to say his name simply referring to him as “that individual”.
The following paragraph covers events that occur at the end of the film and where Navalny is today.
Navalny never tries to be something different than what it sets out to be. Romer follows a true freedom fighter who fights for the truth no matter what and will not let the powers over him drive him out of Russia. The end of the film sees him return to Russia with a swarm of supports surrounding the airport who are being held back my Russia police. His influence is clearly massive and makes Putin very fearful of him. He can’t let him go because then he would be seen as weak, he cannot execute him because then he would become a martyr. So as Navalny returned to Russia he decided to keep him in prison indefinitely. To this day Navalny sits in solitary confinement and his attorney-client privileges still revoked. The oppression in present day Russia still holds the cold cruelty of the USSR’s totalitarian past. It’s been evident to all of us through Chernobyl and Russia’s attacks on Ukraine. The film simply reveals that Russia’s childish aggression extends to its own people and political leaders. A clear statement to Russia’s broke democracy and a society which wishes to make its voices for freedom disappear rather than bring up others.
Navalny is currently streaming on HBO Max in the U.S and on Crave in Canada