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NEW YORK (AP) — “Navalny,” a look at a Russian opposition leader following an attempt on his life, has won the Oscar for best documentary feature.

Director Daniel Roher’s portrait of Kremlin critic Alexei 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 by saying he dedicated it to Navalny and to all political prisoners around the world. “Alexei, 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. Navalny’s wife, Yulia, said: “Alexei, I am dreaming of the day you will be free and our country will be free. Stay strong, my love.”

Navalny is a media savvy, anti-corruption campaigner in his mid-40s who has for many years been a headache for Russian President Vladimir Putin. He’s released numerous reports about corruption in Russia and the Putin administration and become 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. The media has called Navalny the Kremlin’s fiercest critic. And he is seemingly undaunted by the intimidation and the arrests he’s endured.

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

“’Navalny,’ first and foremost, is about the passion, drive and inspiring heroism of Alexey Navalny, who even as we celebrate this award continues to languish in a penal colony,” said Amy Entelis, an executive vice president at CNN Worldwide. The film, presented by CNN Films and HBO Max, represents CNN’s first Oscar.

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


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