‘Navalny’ Movie Review [Sundance 2022]: The Captivating Social and Political Journey of Alexei Navalny

Navalny is a riveting and powerful documentary about the political and social battles worth fighting for. Director Daniel Roher approaches the subject of Alexei Navalny’s journey in a suspenseful, yet remarkably tender fashion. Navalny is a must-see documentary, regardless of how much viewers already know about his opposition to the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin.

‘Navalny’ details Alexei Navalny’s journey

'Navalny' review Alexei Navalny sitting with his hands folded next to a glass of water
Alexei Navalny | Sundance Institute

It’s August 2020. A plane traveling from Siberia to Moscow suddenly made an emergency landing as a result of Navalny being on the brink of death. They manage to save his life but confirm that he was poisoned with a nerve agent that the Russian government used in the past called Novichok.

Roher’s documentary follows Navalny and his team through the aftermath. He already had a large social media following with many people around the world watching his story unfold. Navalny works with journalists and news organizations to uncover the truth behind this attempted assassination and expose it to the world.

Director Daniel Roher explores anti-corruption and the fight for what’s right

Roher’s Navalny explores his journey in the face of possible death or life imprisonment, but it also touches on how the media spun the story. Russian news outlets spout dangerous lies and offensive rhetoric to diminish Navalny’s image and credibility. However, Putin won’t even dare say his name in public, often calling him “that person” or “the patient.” Navalny believed that remaining in the public eye was keeping him alive, but that wouldn’t prove to be entirely correct.

After the assassination attempt, the investigative efforts proved difficult. It occurred on Russian soil so it was near impossible to perform a proper investigation. Nevertheless, Roher speaks with insiders to paint a comprehensive picture of their findings. Navalny displays the fight for what’s right. If people aren’t willing to keep going, then all hope is lost.

Navalny naturally brings the documentary’s subject back to Russia. He’s an enthralling speaker who clearly means and feels every word of what he says. Roher speaks to his family to fully understand their perspective and the impact that his fight for an entire country has on them. Navalny is political and social, but it’s also emotional and grounded.

‘Navalny’ is a must-see documentary

'Navalny' review Daniel Roher and Dasha Navalny smiling in front of poster
L-R: Daniel Roher and Dasha Navalny | Sundance Institute

The opening scene explores the intention of making this documentary in the first place. Navalny doesn’t want the film to be a “boring” account of his life if he were to end up dead. Rather, he has a message to share with the world that he wants to live on, even if he were to end up dead or imprisoned. Navalny is about making a statement and using evidence to turn words and ideas into action.

Roher doesn’t spread himself thin with his amount of participants. However, he incorporates news footage, social media excerpts, and talk show airings to show how the international press covered the story. Navalny tells its viewers to not be afraid and to never stop fighting back against corruption. He’s referred to as the symbol of Russia’s freedom, but his story is a human one that extends past Russia’s borders.

Navalny is a robust piece of documentary storytelling. It’s an investigative thriller that elicits a profound emotional reaction. Roher’s film is lively, well-edited, and thoroughly enthralling. It’s a must-see documentary, particularly for audiences fascinated by the modern social and political climate. Navalny is the type of documentary that is both emotionally resonant and nail-bitingly suspenseful.

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