Alexey Navalny film on fighting the Kremlin wins Oscar

Navalny, 46, fell ill in Siberia in 2020 and was flown to Germany, which said it found evidence he had been poisoned with Novichok, a banned nerve agent.

Alexey Navalny
An image depicting jailed Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny reading 'the hero of the new age' in St Petersburg, Russia [File: Anton Vaganov/Reuters]

The movie Navalny, a look at the Russian dissident who was poisoned with a nerve agent and nearly died, captured the Oscar for best documentary feature.

Director Daniel Roher’s portrait of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny has shadowy operatives, truth-seeking journalists, conspiracy theories and Soviet-era poisons. It is a film with obvious political poignance following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Roher accepted his statuette on Sunday by saying he dedicated it to Navalny and to all political prisoners around the world.

“Alexey, the world has not forgotten your vital message to us all: we must not be afraid to oppose dictators and authoritarianism wherever it rears its head,” said Roher.

Joining the director on stage, Navalny’s wife Yulia Navalnaya added: “Alexey, I am dreaming of the day you will be free and our country will be free. Stay strong, my love.”

Navalny has for many years been a headache for Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has released numerous reports about corruption in Russia and the Putin administration, becoming a popular and rallying figure among like-minded Russians.

Roher was able to sit down with Navalny during his brief stay in Berlin in 2020 and early 2021 as he was recovering from being poisoned and seeking the truth behind the unsuccessful murder attempt. Media have called Navalny the Kremlin’s fiercest critic, and he is seemingly undaunted by the intimidation and the arrests he has endured.

The film was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival where it won the documentary audience award and the festival favourite award.

Navalny beat the other documentary nominees: All That Breathes; All the Beauty and the Bloodshed; Fire of Love; and A House Made of Splinters.

The Kremlin on Monday said the Academy Award showed “a certain element of politicisation” by Hollywood.

‘Not allowed to give up’

Navalny, 46, fell ill in Siberia in 2020 and was flown to Germany, which said it found evidence he had been poisoned with Novichok, a banned nerve agent.

Western nations allege it was a Russian state assassination attempt to silence the outspoken critic. Russia denies any role in his illness and says it has not seen proof he was poisoned.

After recuperating for five months in Germany, Navalny returned to Russia in January 2021. He was immediately arrested on arrival at Moscow airport and later sentenced to 11-and-a-half years in prison.

Navalny has rejected the cases against him as fabricated. He is currently being held in a remote penal colony and is again reportedly in ill health.

At the end of the film, Navalny is asked what his message would be to the Russian people if he were killed. “You’re not allowed to give up,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies