Sundance Film Festival has revealed a mystery movie on its 2022 lineup.
“Navalny,” a fly-on-the-wall documentary about Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, has been a late addition to the festival’s agenda. The film will debut on Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. MT.
This year’s Sundance Film Festival is currently taking place virtually, a concession due to the omicron variant of COVID-19, and ends on Jan. 30. In an usual move, Sundance had a TBA listed for the 10th and final selection in the U.S. documentary competition before Monday’s announcement that “Navalny” would fill the slot. The film’s premiere coincides with rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia amid mounting fears of Russian invasion into Ukraine.
Directed by Daniel Roher, “Navalny” is described as a “revealing documentary thriller” that offers unparalleled access to the anti-corruption activist and his inner circle. The gripping feature tells the events of Navalny, who fell gravely ill during a 2020 flight from Siberia to Moscow. After being hospitalized and evacuated to Berlin, German authorities confirmed he had been poisoned with Novichok, a nerve agent implicated in attacks on others who opposed the Russian government. President Vladimir Putin denied any involvement. While recovering, Navalny and his team partnered with the investigative journalism outlet Bellingcat and other international news organizations to investigate his attempted assassination and find proof of the Kremlin’s involvement.
“We are delighted to have ‘Navalny’ at this year’s Festival,” said Tabitha Jackson, Sundance Film Festival’s director. “When we saw this film in the early fall we all immediately knew that we wanted it and would wait for it: riveting cinema in the present tense, incredible access, intrepid investigative journalism, a compelling protagonist speaking truth to power — all beautifully edited, directed and produced into a timely non-fiction thriller that deals with the highest of stakes for freedom of expression.”
Diane Becker, Melanie Miller, Shane Boris and Odessa Rae produced “Navalny.” CNN Films and HBO Max commissioned the film, which will screen on CNN in North America and streaming platforms HBO Max and CNN Plus at a later, yet-to-be-determined date. Other distribution rights for the documentary remain available.
Roher is best known for directing the music documentary “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band.” His credits also include “Survivors Rowe” and “Sourtoe: The Story of the Sorry Cannibal.”
“Boldly confronting injustice through cinematic storytelling has been threaded into Sundance’s DNA since its inception. My team and I can’t imagine premiering at any other festival. We are thrilled that Sundance audiences will be the first to see our film and witness the extraordinary courage of Alexei Navalny,” Roher said.