The Sundance Institute announced a surprise release for their final film in the U.S. Documentary Competition, which was Navalny, a documentary about the Russian activist Alexei Navalny which was filmed in Germany right after he was nearly assassinated in a poisoning likely carried out by the Kremlin.

Navalny, a vocal critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was arrested last year soon after filming the documentary, and the Russian Government officially named him a terrorist just a day after Navalny premiered in the Festival.

Navalny was directed by Daniel Roher, who told the Associated Press that the success of the documentary will help Navalny stay safe while imprisoned. “It will be harder for the regime to murder him in prison if he is occupying space in the global conversation. I think that’s what our film seeks to do: To make sure his name is front and center.”

The documentary itself occasionally plays like a spy thriller of its own, showing stunning sequences of the activist’s bravery. In one scene, Navalny, in collaboration with journalist Christo Grozev of investigative website Bellingcat, tracks down and makes prank phone calls to several of the people that allegedly conspired in his assassination attempt.


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Navalny has since been met with significant acclaim upon its release in Sundance, with critics lauding Navalny as a passionate and inspiring subject, and praising its fast pace and unbelievably intimate access into the thoughts and life of this incredible figure.

Navalny will be distributed by CNN and HBO Max later this year.

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