Daniel Roher’s knife-edge documentary captures Putin’s popular opponent as he recovers from an assassination attempt and considers returning home.
Roher’s film may be grounded in fact but it has all the hallmarks of a propulsive political thriller. It’s bookended by Alexei Navalny’s decision to return home to Russia after recovering from the FSB’s attempts to kill him with the nerve agent Novichok. The film then shifts back in time to chart his rise as the only credible political opponent to the Putin regime, the trip to Siberia that ended in his poisoning, his medical evacuation to Germany where he recovered and his extraordinary attempt to reveal the identities of his would-be killers.
Roher had incredible access to Navalny during his stay in Germany. A social media-savvy activist, the Russian is an articulate presence in the film, as charming as he is driven in his desire to bring about seismic change in his homeland. It’s made clear why he poses such a threat to Putin and his allies – Navalny represents everything the present regime isn’t; he offers hope of a government that battles corruption rather than embodies it. And the film shows a man who believes his cause is greater than his life – his fight just part of a larger movement seeking change.