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The Oscar-winning film that captured Navalny's life and possible death


''If you are killed, if this does happen, what message do you leave behind to the Russian people?"


In the 2022 Oscar-winning documentary Navalny, directed by Canadian Daniel Roher, Alexei Navalny is asked this question for the first time. "Come on, Daniel, no," Navalny grinned in response. "Not at all. It appears as though you are filming a movie about my demise." The news that the 47-year-old Russian political activist passed away on Friday in an Arctic Circle jail has now given those remarks a new depth of meaning.

After going for a walk, the Kremlin critic became ill, according to Russian prison authorities. According to Navalny's team, the Russian authorities are deliberately hiding his body to "cover traces".

Mr Roher told that even though it was obvious that Navalny was in danger back in Russia, he was still completely shocked to learn of his friend's passing.

"In this moment we're occupying now - this cloud of sadness and grief which I'm struck by - it's shocking to me," Roher told. 

"I was shocked when I heard the news, in spite of the fact that anyone who watches the film should not be shocked, it should not be such of a surprise."

Mr. Roher talked about how the film project led to the development of his friendship with Navalny.

"We respect for one another were based on a common sense of humour; he's a very humorous and light-hearted man. My love language is being made fun of, so I immediately responded when he started doing so within ten seconds of our meeting, Mr. Roher said.

The movie follows Navalny as he and his group foil an attempt to use the lethal nerve agent Novichok to poison him.

He had collapsed during a flight over Siberia in August 2020, and an emergency landing in Omsk saved his life. He was eventually airlifted to Berlin for treatment after Russian officials granted permission.

Tests conducted by the military produced "unmistakable evidence of a chemical nerve warfare agent of the Novichok group," the German government disclosed.

The Kremlin rejected the Novichok discovery, which also denied any involvement. Many were sceptical, including Navalny, who teamed up with journalists to conduct his own investigation.

During a remarkable scene in the movie, Navalny gets an FSB agent to confess over the phone that he doused Navalny's pants in a chemical weapon while they were staying at a hotel in Tomsk.

Navalny would have perished if the aircraft had not made an emergency landing, according to agent Konstantin Kudryavtsev. It's unknown what happened to the agent.

Producer of the movie, Shane Boris, said, "We were all completely stunned."

"When the team started that interview I don't think anyone expected the calls to yield any sort of result like that."

The movie follows Navalny as he spends time with his family and gets better from the poisoning. It chronicles his arrival and arrest upon returning to Russia. He was never going to be free.

During the two months of filming, Mr. Roher claims he grew close to Navalny, but the subject matter meant things were challenging.

"I had to ask him uncomfortable questions at some really tense moments. "I'm there first and foremost to make a movie, but even the first question in the movie is a very uncomfortable line of questioning," he remarked.

Mr. Roher claimed that after being imprisoned upon his return to Russia, he and Navalny corresponded through letters.

"Having them here today makes me very happy. I'll treasure those forever; I put them in my office," he remarked.

The possibility of Navalny's demise is a recurring theme in the movie.

In one scene, a Navalny team member asks him if the questions about his past are starting to get on his nerves between interviews.

"It's just that I realise that he's filming it all for the movie he's going to release if I get whacked," Navalny responds, clarifying that he is not.

The movie was widely praised worldwide when it was released before his passing. "One of the most jaw-dropping things you'll ever witness," according to The Guardian, and "unquestionably one of the most thrilling documentaries to be released this, or any, year," according to The Times.

A lot of people are now viewing the movie differently.

"Alexei, if you are arrested and thrown in prison, or the unthinkable happens and you are killed, what message do you leave behind for the Russian people?" In the last scene, Mr. Roher queries.

After responding briefly in English, the director advises Navalny to return to speaking in his original language.

In Russian, he concludes, saying, "We are unaware of our true strength. The only thing good people need to do for evil to win is for them to do nothing.

He says, "So don't be inactive," then casts a knowing glance in the camera's direction.

According to Mr. Roher, the film's production has altered his life.

"It had such a profound impact on me as a human being," he stated.

"When I reflect on his life, it serves as a reminder that no matter what challenges life presents; everything will work out as long as you maintain humour and humanity. Keep writing your wife Valentine's Day cards and laughing.

"Everything isn't going to be okay for Alexei as we know, but his life is a master class in courage, resilience, and light in the dark."


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