'Navalny' wins Oscar for best documentary feature; director dedicates win to political prisoner

ByMarianne Garvey, Sophie Tanno and Caitlin Hu, CNNWire
Monday, March 13, 2023
'Navalny' wins Oscar for Best Documentary Feature
'Navalny' wins Oscar for Best Documentary Feature

"Navalny," a film that explores the plot to kill Russian anti-corruption campaigner and former presidential candidate, Alexey Navalny, has won the Oscar for best documentary feature at Sunday's Academy Awards.

Director David Roher dedicated the win to Navalny and "to all other political prisoners around the world."

"Alexei, the world has not forgotten your vital message to us all," Roher said. "We must not be afraid to oppose dictators and authoritarianism wherever it rears its head."

The riveting real-life thriller follows Navalny's political rise, his survival of an assassination attempt against him by poisoning and his subsequent imprisonment. Directed by Daniel Roher and presented by CNN Films and HBO Max, "Navalny" documents a methodical investigation by CNN Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward, and journalist group, Bellingcat, to unmask Navalny's would-be killers.

"My husband is in prison just for telling the truth," said Navalny's wife, Yulia Navalnaya, who joined Roher onstage. "My husband is in prison just for defending democracy. Alexei, I am dreaming of the day when you will be free and our country will be free. Stay strong, my love."

"Navalny" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2022. The critically acclaimed project also won a BAFTA Award for best documentary in February. This is the first Oscar for CNN Films, which has been previously nominated for five Academy Awards.

An outspoken critic of the Kremlin, Navalny is currently serving a nine-year term at a maximum-security prison east of Moscow.

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His daughter, Dasha Navalnaya, recently told CNN's Erin Burnett on that her father is still calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war in Ukraine.

"We will not stop fighting," until the end of the war and until her father is released, Navalnaya said.

He was poisoned with nerve agent Novichok in 2020, an attack several Western officials and Navalny himself openly blamed on the Kremlin. Russia has denied any involvement.

After several months in Germany recovering from the poisoning, Navalny returned to Moscow, where he was immediately arrested for violating probation terms imposed from a 2014 embezzlement case that he said was politically motivated.

He was initially sentenced to two-and-a-half years, and then later given nine years over separate allegations that he stole from his anti-corruption foundation.

Dasha Navalnaya said the "main goal" of her father's work and anti-corruption foundation "is for Russia to become a free state, to have open elections, to have freedom of press, freedom of speech, and just you know, to have the opportunity to become a part of the normal Western democratized community."

She also voiced escalating concern about her father's prison conditions now, saying that her family has had limited access to him and that his attorneys are able to see him only "through a guarded veil."

"So we can't really know for sure his health circumstance and he hasn't seen his family in over half a year," she said. "I haven't seen him in person in over a year and it's quite concerning considering his health is getting worse and worse."

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