A documentary about imprisoned Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has won two prestigious awards at a US film festival honoring independent cinema.
The film Navalny won the Audience Award for Documentary and the Festival Favorite Award at the Sundance Film Festival. The rewards have been announced on January 28 during a ceremony broadcast live on Twitter.
Navalny, a late addition to the competition, follows the Russian opposition politician as he recovers in Berlin after being poisoned.
The Sundance Institute announced Jan. 24 that the festival will hold the world premiere of Navalny, making the documentary the 10th and final film in the U.S. Documentary Competition section. It had been kept under wraps ahead of its Jan. 25 premiere.
“When we saw this film in early fall, we all immediately knew we wanted it and were expecting it: gripping cinema in the present, incredible access, fearless investigative journalism, a compelling protagonist who speaks truth to power,” said the director of the festival. Tabitha Jackson in a press release earlier this week.
Navalny tells the story of what happened after the anti-corruption defender survived poisoning and tries to piece together who was behind it. In partnership with the open source investigative group Bellingcat, director Daniel Roher and his team set out to interview Navalny during his recovery in Berlin.
Roher said he wanted the film to spark “global outrage and outcry” over Navalny’s imprisonment.
Navalny returned to Russia early last year and, after a speedy trial, was sentenced to 2½ years in prison for breaching the terms of an earlier parole. His conviction is widely seen as a fabricated and politically motivated affair.
Navalny blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for his poisoning with a Novichok-like chemical. The Kremlin has denied any role in the poisoning of Navalny.
The Navalny documentary also won the Festival Favorite Award, which is determined by a vote from the public who viewed the 84 feature films screened during the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
On the same day as the film’s world premiere, Russia added Navalny and several of his allies to his list of “terrorists and extremists” in the latest in a series of moves by authorities to root out opposition to Putin. Many of those named have already fled Russia.
Other big winners at this year’s Sundance Film Festival included Nanny, a drama about an undocumented nanny in New York, and Cha Cha Real Smooth, a documentary about three exiled dissidents from Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
All winning films will be screened on Sundance’s online platform on January 29 and 30. The festival, a major event for independent filmmaking, is normally held in Park City, Utah, but organizers canceled the in-person portion of the event again this year. due to the COVID-19 pandemic, moving it to a virtual event.