Described as a documentary thriller and shot as the story unfolded, Navalny follows the man who survived an assassination attempt by poisoning with a lethal nerve agent in August 2020. During his months-long recovery he makes shocking discoveries about the attempt on his life and decides to return home. Despite the risks, he willingly returned to Russia in January 2021 and was arrested moments after landing in Moscow for leaving the country, related to a prior suspended sentence.
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The film, which will air on CNN in North America, is directed by Daniel Roher, who helmed the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival opener Once Were Brothers. “Having a front seat to history while shooting this film was a life-changing experience,” he said. “I am grateful to CNN Films and HBO Max for their unwavering support and their commitment to amplifying the unbelievable story of one man and his fight against an authoritarian regime.”
Here’s a little more background: In August 2020, a plane traveling from Siberia to Moscow made an emergency landing. One of its passengers was Navalny, and he was deathly ill. He was taken to a local Siberian hospital and evacuated to Berlin, where the German government eventually determined he had been poisoned with Novichok, a lethal nerve agent implicated in attacks on other opponents of the Russian government.
Navalny and his team learned about the attempt on his life from the data investigative journalism outlet Bellingcat, which along with other international news organizations, including CNN, uncovered crucial details about the plot and its potential links to the Kremlin. President Vladimir Putin denied any involvement in the attack and accused news organizations that reported on the investigation of “information warfare,” facilitated by foreign special services.
Navalny is produced by Raefilm Studios’ Odessa Rae, Fishbowl Films’ Diane Becker and Melanie Miller and Cottage M’s Shane Boris. Exec producers are Amy Entelis and Courtney Sexton of CNN Films and Maria Pevchikh. HBO Max and CNN+ hold streaming rights.