Following Alexei Navalny’s death at 47 on February 16, the filmmaking team behind the winner of the best documentary feature Oscar at 2023’s Academy Awards has released a statement. The film, simply titled “Navalny” and directed by Daniel Roher, beat top competition, including “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” and “All That Breathes,” to win the prize.

“We are all overcome with emotions today,” the statement, attributed to the entire filmmaking team collectively, begins. “Pain, sadness, and most of all anger. Alexei was a light who, along with his family, made the greatest of sacrifices to fight against Putin and his vile regime. Alexei built his organization and his movement to survive even if he did not.

“The fight against corruption, against authoritarianism, and against the war in Ukraine continues. The fight for democracy must go on. The most important thing we learned from Alexei lived in his spirit, the way he retained his humanity even in the worst of circumstances. We must continue with that spirit. As the tides of nationalism and authoritarianism continue to roll into our own countries around the world, we must all stand up for our democratic values.

“We can’t let anti-democratic factions come to power and we can’t allow the silencing of the strong democratic movement that continues in Russia. If Alexei were here he would say raise a shot of vodka for me and get back to work, democracy is fragile but worth fighting for.”

“Navalny” premiered at the 2022 virtual Sundance Film Festival, where it was hailed for having the suspense of a thriller. In his review, IndieWire’s David Ehrlich noted the astonishing moment where Navalny successfully makes contact on the phone with one of the Russian government agents who tried — and failed — to assassinate him, via poisoning. The film is built partly out of Navalny’s direct address to the camera, as well as a depiction of him living in Germany and planning his return to Russia in January 2021, where, as he expected, he was arrested immediately upon arrival. It’s full of intimate details, like Navalny choosing to watch “Rick & Morty” in his last moments of freedom.

He spent the next three years incarcerated until his death February 16.

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