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Revisiting 'Navalny' 3 min read
Alexei Navalny

Revisiting 'Navalny'

In honor of Alexei Navalny's death, revisit the defining scene from the 2022 documentary that premiered at Sundance.

By Cary Littlejohn

Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader and political prisoner of Vladimir Putin, is dead at 47.

World leaders blame Putin for Alexei Navalny’s death in a Russian prison | Live updates
The fiercest foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who staged massive anti-Kremlin protests, died in prison, Russian authorities said.

It was perhaps an unexpected bit of news this morning, but it remains the least-surprising Russian death since Yevgeny Prighozin's plane fell out of the sky last year.

Part of Navalny's story (and international fame and popularity) was the Putin's previous attempt and failure to assassinate him by poisoning. That incident provided one of the most dramatic moments in a documentary film in recent memory. Here's what I remember about that particular viewing experience.

It was 2022, and I was "attending" the Sundance Film Festival virtually from snowy Wyoming. The film, Navalny (now available on Max), was a surprise entry to the festival, and I was given a chance to purchase a sort of add-on ticket to watch it on the final Sunday of the festival.

I settled into the couch and was immediately captivated by the charm that radiated from the screen. Navalny was a known name to me at this point; I'd been following some of the great writing being done about him for more than a year at that point. (See this edition of The Postscript where, in recapping some of the best stories of the first half of 2021, I suggested a story on Navalny vs. Putin.)

The Best of 2021, Part I
Reporting and writing from the past year worth revisiting.

And if it were just an inside look at his tumultuous life and tortured existence, that would have been enough.

It was no secret to anyone watching the film that Putin had attempted to have Navalny murdered. The film chronicled that, but it was a single phone call after Navalny had recovered that provided an unrivaled scene, a truly jaw-dropping moment for the viewer.

Instead of letting me ruin it (in case you haven't seen it), I suggest 1) you go watch it first and 2) check out this video from the film's director that breaks down that climactic scene.