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HBO releases 'Sakharov,' a timely, provocative film

As reports about the condition of Soviet hunger-fasting dissident Andrei Sakharov and his wife, Elena Bonner, continue to fill the headlines, Home Box Office is shuffling its schedule to air a made-for-cable film about their struggle.

Sakharov (HBO, Wednesday, 8-9:30 p.m.), starring Jason Robards and Glenda Jackson, was scheduled for September release as an original HBO Premiere Film, a co-production of HBO and Titus Productions in association with Tom Bernstein and Gregory Wallace.

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It is a straightforward television docudrama about Nobel prizewinnner Sakharov's human rights struggles. If there is a villain, it is the Soviet system rather than individual Russian officials. And if there is too much emphasis on romance in this dramatization, there is also a clear statement of Sakharov's belief that there is ''a need to create ideals; without ideals there can be no hope.''

The major thrust of the film is the belief of the dissidents that worldwide public opinion can influence Soviet policy in regard to human rights. HBO is to be congratulated for reorganizing its schedule so this film can premiere now - perhaps in time to help the Sakharovs. Certainly, for millions of Americans - who have only a vague understanding of the confrontation - ''Sakharov'' may be an important eye-opening clarion call.

It is to be hoped that the timely release of ''Sakharov'' may prove to be a harbinger of future use of television's immediacy in alerting the world to injustices wherever they exist.

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