Monday, March 13, 2023

Navalny: The Russian Dissident Who Shocked The World

 By José Alberto Hermosillo

“Navalny” is an intense, astonishing, and shocking political thriller! A leading-edge Academy Award-winning jaw-dropping documentary, exceptionally made, with trustworthy first-hand information and unexpected twists and turns that follow the attempted assassination of former Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 2020.

Navalny’s ordeal started when he felt sick from drinking poisoned tea on an airplane from Moscow to Siberia and had to be diverted to Omsk. Navalny’s case continued under the reflector lights of the world’s newscasters to another hospital in Germany. 

While planning his return to Russia after 32 days in an intensive care facility in Deutschland, he recovered, regrouped, and started his quest to unmask the corrupt and anti-democratic Russian gubernatorial system.

Navalny needed more than a new Perestroika to win the elections against Putin and reform the country’s political system. His people supported him, but the Russian secret agents severely impacted his life and his family’s safety. 

Therefore, Navalny’s ideology vanishes before his eyes over his imperative need for survival. Nevertheless, starting with Alexei’s case, he organized the “Navalny’s Anti-corruption Foundation” to prosecute Putin’s agents who participated in disappearing adversaries, dissidents, and Loud protestors in and outside the former Soviet Union. The vicious internal acts of repression happened as a prelude to the Ukraine War in 2022.

Screening of "Navalny." Photo by José Alberto Hermosillo. FestivalinLA ©2023

The investigation turns complex when documentarians follow the trends of the story before Navalny’s poisoning by the Russian secret service. At the same time, it parallels Navalny’s inquiries about the overwhelming evidence of his executioners over the phone, in real-time, and disclosing those incriminating testimonies with the proper authorities and on social media.

Director Daniel Roher., “Navalny.” Photo by José Alberto Hermosillo. FestivalinLA ©2023

When Canadian filmmaker Daniel Roher (‘Once Were Brothers”) was working on a different project in Ukraine, he had to go to Vienna but could not return to Ukraine to continue his work. It was when his American producers brought up the subject of the Russian dissident. Daniel and his crew went immediately to Germany to interview Alexei Navalny and set the story right.

The documentarians gathered over a month of recordings, with 4,000 pages of transcripts, pictures, videos, and other materials. The first cut of the documentary ended as an extensive 15-hour project, the product of four cameras rolling simultaneously during the last interview. Before locking down the intense 1 hour 39 minutes final cut, they reviewed all the vital information and added it to the film’s final discussion. 

During the process, the crew communicated with the security code LP9 (Love Pushing 9) to not let any information be leaked to the Russian Secret Service.

“Navalny” director Daniel Roher, cinematographer Niki Waltl, and Alexei Navalny

Finishing the film was an impossible mission because new events developed daily. Still, Daniel Roher was determined to follow the story until Navalny’s nine-plus years sentencing in a maximum security penal colony after being found guilty of large-scale fraud and contempt in the Moscow courthouse. 

In his acceptance speech at the 95th Academy Awards, Daniel Roher passionately stated, “Alexei Navalny, the leader of the Russian opposition, is in solitary confinement for what he calls Vladimir Putin’s unjust war in Ukraine.” The director wanted to dedicate the award to all political prisoners worldwide. 

Alexei Navalny is a politician with millions of followers on YouTube. He reaches the masses online through social media with his slogan, “Do not be afraid.”

Panel with "Navalny" director Daniel Roher. Photo by José Alberto Hermosillo. FestivalinLA ©2023

Now, the young documentarian Daniel Roher can deliver more than a promise to Alexei Navalny, who was hoping to get an Academy Award nomination and, why not, an Oscar win. More importantly, the Awards are showing broadly in Russia and the world, and he knows that people in his country will be watching. That will keep his name and intention to become Russia’s next president relevant at the highest stage during the Awards ceremony, like a message hidden inside a Trojan horse. The award means the world to everybody – the director, the idealist, the family, and the followers.

Daniel Roher knows that his provocative documentary will not show in a multiplex in Moscow anytime soon. But the director’s dream is to show his project to Alexei in a movie theater in The Golden Domed City. That moment will be remembered as epic as winning the Oscar for Navalny’s cause.
"Navalny" director Daniel Roher & film critic José Alberto Hermosillo. FestivalinLA ©2023

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