Updated: Sep 12
Director: Daniel Roher
Another real life hero.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy humbles us with his bravery, and to that list we must add Alexei Navalny – activist and anti-authoritarian Russian opposition leader; another individual who is worthy of the world's respect.
Like Volodymyr, Navalny’s life has been more thrilling and heroic than any Hollywood concoction. I hope very much that he is not a martyr but still a breathing prisoner of Vladimir Putin, for the documentary ‘Navalny’ takes us through his story until he is taken into custody by the Russian police.
Director Danial Roher explores a little of Navalny’s childhood, revealing that he was brought up in a small village near Chernobyl, and that after the nuclear plant disaster of 1986 local families were encouraged to return to the fields and plant their crops. Navalny said that it was the moment that he looked into the eyes of the Russian Government official that he realised it was all a lie, and that the local families were to be sacrificed in a political PR exercise.
This amazing documentary flips backwards and forwards through Navalny’s growing popularity in Russia, to his near fatal poisoning with what would appear to be Putin’s drug of choice to assassinate dissenting political voices – the nerve agent Novichok. We follow Navalny through his recuperation in Germany, meet his family and his tiny media empire – Navalny is a consummately adept social media player – and then back to Russia in spite of the very obvious ‘not welcome’ signals he has received from Putin.
Along the way we get insight into how the Kremlin (or Putin) targets those it wishes to silence. We track to a particular factory where toxins are manufactured and meet a posse of Putin’s hitmen … all this information coming courtesy of an extraordinary human being (Bulgarian investigative journalist Christo Grozev) who trawls open source intelligence and identifies patterns and aberrant formations in communication, human passage, use of online services and all the digital data detritus that accompany our lives. In Navalny’s situation, it was relatively easy for Grozev to trace those individuals who were shadowing Navalny on his political campaign and also to locate the address of the factory where Novichok is manufactured.
What is hardest to come to terms with in the documentary is that Navalny and his visibly loving family have obviously accepted that Navalny may be incarcerated (again) or killed for his activities.
The last we see of what once was a fit and muscular man is the incarcerated Navalny; gaunt, shaven, and in prison garb. It is footage evidently taken and smuggled from the Russian prison cell in which he presently resides.
Curiously (almost surreally), an amigo of mine who also saw the documentary was particularly taken by the gorgeous women surrounding Navalny; his wife, daughter, assistant, lawyer and more. Apart from being quite startled that he made this remark, on consideration I have come to the conclusion that heroes get the girls and corrupt dictators get political prisoners or gold-diggers.
'Navalny' is hard to catch at cinemas due to its limited release.
I viewed the documentary on Amazon Prime.