By Amanda Gilmore
Director Daniel Roher gives his audience access to Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was poisoned with Novichok, a nerve agent implicated in attacks on other opponents of the Russian government. We follow from the moments immediately following the attack, his time spent in Germany, and his dangerous return to Russia.
What makes Navalny standout is the man himself. One interview with Alexei Navalny repeatedly plays between the narrative. Roher’s questions gain access to Navalny’s infectious and optimistic personality. It comes as no surprise that Russia loves him and Vladimir Putin is terrified of him (so much so, he has never uttered his name).
In the opening, Navalny is asked if he is worried something bad will happen upon his arrival in Russia. He responds by saying that he doesn’t want this Documentary to be a sad one, but a Thriller. And that is precisely what Navalny is, a gripping Thriller that’s made even more terrifying because it’s real. The most memorable moment is a long sequence where Navalny is calling the Russians who are believed to be a part of his poisoning. This immensely tense and riveting moment will leave you on the edge of your seat and shock you to your core.
Roher shows the importance Yulia, Navalny’s wife, played in keeping her husband alive. Yulia was the force behind getting her husband out of a Russian hospital and to Germany. Her unwavering bravery against the corrupt system is inspiring. As we learn more about their partnership, Roher focuses-in on their bond and the close-knit family they have. Therefore, capturing a portrait of the domestic all can relate to.
Overall, Navalny is a timely, gripping Documentary that gets to the truth behind the poisoning and the lethal lengths Putin’s Government will go.
Navalny screens at Hot Docs ’22:
Sat, Apr 30 at 6:30 PM at Hot Docs Cinema
Mon, May 2 at 1:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Sat, May 7 at 2:00 PM at Hot Docs Cinema
Online streaming is available for five days starting on MAY 1 at 9:00 AM