April 7, 2023 opinion

Navalny should not have been a winner of an Oscar award

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Sofiya Tkachenko in Vienna, Austria

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As a Ukrainian who is passionate about the film industry, award season is always a huge event for me each year. I eagerly awaited the nominations for the 95th Oscars, released on January 24. I was generally happy with the films chosen. Particularly good this year were the inclusivity in the nominations, with Michelle Yeoh nominated for Best Actress and Ke Huy Quan for Best Supporting Actor.

The film Navalny received a nomination in the Best Documentary Feature Film category – and a month later, it won the Oscar.

The documentary is focused on telling the story of the assassination attempt of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny back in August 2020, who has been imprisoned since January 17 in Russia and is under charges for large-scale fraud. Many believe these are false allegations to eliminate him as an opposition to Putin’s presidency. Currently, Navalny, the head of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, is considered the strongest opposition figure to the ruling party in Russia.

The film portrays the Russian people as victims of a cruel regime. This can be true to an extent, but this leading perspective is absolutely not appropriate when Ukraine has just passed a year of the full-scale invasion and nine years since the annexation of Crimea.

When we have such a huge conflict, like the Russo-Ukrainian war, where the labels of the aggressor and victim are determined by the International Humanitarian Law, when homes are being destroyed, and people are abused and killed, we cannot give such an influential platform to a movie victimising the aggressor – whether it is the opposition or not.

It is also of importance to note that in one surveyed sample, 75% of Russians support the ongoing war in Ukraine, disproving the narrative that they are mostly victims of the regime.

The Oscar Nomination is even more controversial if we consider how the Danish movie A House Made Of Splinters was also nominated in the same category.

The movie is centred around a home for displaced children located in a city now occupied by the Russian army, Lysychansk. Though people can argue that the quality of a movie is more important when the decision of the Academy is being made, I believe that if a film has a clear political message, it cannot be ignored in the evaluation.

The Academy’s denial of President Vladimir Zelenskiy’s request for a speech at the Oscars can be understood considering it being a night of entertainment, and they are an apolitical Award Night if not for the fact that the family in attendance gave political speeches. The dissident’s wife Yulia Navalnaya, after the win of Navalny, told the audience about her husband’s imprisonment, the fight for his freedom, and that he is a victim of Putin’s regime.

She also said she is dreaming of the day “our country will be free” without ever mentioning Ukraine. Her statements create a false idea that the only person to blame is Putin and the government, as well as shifting people’s focus from Ukraine.

When the bombs are still falling, people are still dying, and battles are taking place, these words might strike even more backlash towards Ukraine from Western countries, for whom this award has a lot of influence.

If we were to talk about Alexei Navalny himself, we could see that the person the whole world sees as a saviour of Russia, the only opposition that can confront Putin, is not that far away from Putin’s imperialistic ideas.

Navalny previously made statements about “Ukraine needing to prepare to never get Crimea back” as well as supporting the invasion of Georgia back in 2008, referring to Georgians as “rodents”. Even though he publicly apologised for the statement about Georgia, his words could not be taken back. They reflected his true opinion. So it is easy to say he is not such a perfect solution after all and him being anti-Putin does not equal being anti-imperialist.

This movie being recognised and celebrated is unacceptable, no matter how good the quality of it might be. Such distinguished organisations with influential platforms like the Academy should consider the context of the movie before representing it.

So will the Academy realise and reflect on the consequences their decision had globally on the political situation in Ukraine? Will they decide to take appropriate action?

Written by:

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Sofiya Tkachenko

former Editor-in-chief

Kyiv, Ukraine | Vienna, Austria

Born in 2006, Sofiya is originally from Kyiv, Ukraine, but now, because of the war, she has relocated to Vienna, Austria. She is interested in writing about culture and politics, especially the current situation in Ukraine and the world as a whole, but is planning on studying Biology in Vienna next year. 

Sofiya joined Harbingers’ Magazine as a contributor in the spring of 2022. A few months later, she took on the role of the social media and the Harbingers’ Weekly Brief newsletter editor. After half a year, her devotion and hard work promoted her to the position of editor-in-chief of the magazine – in September 2023, she took the helm from Sofia Radysh, who stepped down having completed her one-year term.

In her spare time, Sofiya organises charity poetry events and is working on multiple projects regarding the promotion of Ukrainian culture in Europe.

She speaks Ukrainian, English, Russian, and a bit of German.

 

Edited by:

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Sofiya Suleimenova

International Affairs Section Editor

Geneva, Switzerland

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