CNN Films and HBO Max Set Doc ‘Navalny’ About Russian Government Opposition Leader

Daniel Roher directs the film about imprisoned anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny
BERLIN, GERMANY – JANUARY 23: A protesters holds a banner reading "FREE NAVALNY" in front of the Federal Chancellery, as some 2,500 supporters of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny march in protest to demand his release from prison in Moscow on January 23, 2021 in Berlin, Germany. The protesters marched from the federal chancellery through the Russian embassy to Brandenburg Gate in part also heeding a call by Navalny to protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin. Navalny, who was arrested earlier this week upon his return to Moscow from Germany, has called for protests against Putin across Russia, though Russian authorities have refused to allow them and deemed the protests illegal. Berlin is home to a large expatriate Russian community. (Photo by Omer Messinger/Getty Images)

CNN Films and HBO Max are teaming up for a documentary called “Navalny” about Alexei Navalny, a Russian government opposition leader and anti-corruption activist who has been imprisoned in Russia for the last year.

Daniel Roher (“Once Were Brothers”) is directing the film that’s described as a fly-on-the-wall documentary thriller. It discusses how Navalny survived an assassination attempt on his life by poisoning with a lethal nerve agent back in August 2020. It even shows how after he made discoveries about his assassination attempt, he chose to still return home to Russia on Jan. 17, 2021, only to be arrested moments after landing in Moscow tied to a prior suspended sentence.

CNN will broadcast the film in North America while both HBO Max and CNN+ hold the streaming rights. Other distribution rights remain available.

For more context on Navalny’s story, in August 2020, a plane traveling from Siberia to Moscow made an emergency landing after Navalny was found deathly ill. He was taken to a local Siberian hospital and evacuated to Berlin, where the German government eventually determined he had been poisoned with Novichok, a lethal nerve agent implicated in attacks on other opponents of the Russian government.

Navalny and his team learned about the attempt on his life from the data investigative journalism outlet Bellingcat, which along with other international news organizations, including CNN, uncovered crucial details about the plot and its potential links to the Kremlin. President Vladimir Putin denied any involvement in the attack, and accused news organizations that reported on the investigation of “information warfare,” facilitated by foreign special services.

“Navalny” is a co-production of CNN Films and HBO Max, in association with Fishbowl Films, Raefilm Studios and Cottage M. Raefilm Studios’ Odessa Rae, Fishbowl Films’ Diane Becker and Melanie Miller and Cottage M’s Shane Boris produced the film. Amy Entelis and Courtney Sexton of CNN Films, and Maria Pevchikh, are executive producers. 

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to share Alexei’s gripping story with the world,” Sexton, senior vice president for CNN Films, said in a statement. “With unmatched access to Alexei himself, Daniel and the entire team have masterfully delivered a fascinating, raw thriller.”

“Having a front seat to history while shooting this film was a life-changing experience,” Roher said. “I am grateful to CNN Films and HBO Max for their unwavering support and their commitment to amplifying the unbelievable story of one man and his fight against an authoritarian regime.”

The deal for “Navalny” was negotiated by Stacey Wolf, senior vice president of business affairs for CNN Worldwide, on behalf of CNN Films and CNN+. 

CNN Films/HBO Max