Colorado Academy graduate Shane Boris pulled off an extraordinary feat today — he is a producer of record for two of the five films that have been newly nominated for Best Documentary at the 2023 Academy Awards: “Navalny” and “Fire of Love.”

“Navalny” focuses on the poisoned and imprisoned Putin critic Alexei Navalny. “Fire of Love” is a big-buzz doc about a daring French couple who roamed the planet chasing volcanic eruptions to their deaths. Boris was previously Oscar-nominated in 2020 for “The Edge of Democracy.”

Mitch Dickman, owner of Denver’s Listen Productions, said what’s most remarkable about Boris’ perhaps unprecedented Oscars accomplishment is that his two nominated films were made at the same time, by different creative teams working separately but in concert. Both premiered together a year ago at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

“Shane is the only common factor between the two films, which is a testament to how much people like to work with him and what great value he brings to these projects,” Dickman said. “This is a huge deal, and I am very happy for him as a collaborator and friend.” 

Shane Boris

Shane Boris during filming of 'Walden' in 2017 in Colorado.

Boris, reached Monday at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival before the nominations were announced, said he was blown away even to have two films on the Academy’s short list of 15 potential nominees. He, too, said he was most proud that his two films were made concurrently. “Navalny” was directed by Daniel Roher, while “Fire of Love” was helmed by Sara Dosa.

“These two teams essentially joined forces,” said Boris, who spent much of 2021 going back and forth between the making of both films. Not only did they premiere together, they've been out on the same distribution and awards circuit for the past year.

“It’s been beautiful in a lot of ways to go through this with both teams, and for both teams to support each other,” said Boris, who splits time between Denver and Los Angeles. “It’s like music: You become these traveling bands going around the world together. That's been really rewarding, and we’ve all become amazing friends.”

Perhaps no one was happier for Boris today than Roher. “Shane’s DNA and his brain and his love and his care and his compassion are threaded into these two nominated films,” Roher told Deadline. “We called our little film family, as we did on this tour together, ‘Fire of Navalny Love.'”

The other Best Documentary nominees include “All that Breathes” and “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” (both featured at the recent 2022 Denver Film Festival), along with “A House Made of Splinters.” If the experts are to be believed, the frontrunner is likely Laura Poitras’ ”All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” which tells the story of renowned counterculture artist Nan Goldin and her campaign to expose the role of the Sackler family — owners of OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma — in the opioid crisis.          

“Navalny” and Fire of Love” could not be more different, but they do  have commonalities. “Navalny” details the Kremlin’s sinister plot to poison the Putin opposition leader with a deadly nerve agent in August 2020. Navalny became deathly ill but survived, and  remains imprisoned. “Fire of Love” is a visually astonishing film from National Geographic that followed Katia and Maurice Krafft, the daring French volcanologist couple who documented volcanic explosions around the world until they died in one in 1991. 

“In some ways, both films feature protagonists where fear doesn't determine what they believe in and what they do,” Boris said. “What both consider to be the purpose of their lives is something they value higher than anything else. And that resonates for me. I aspire to that as well.”

Both films have their own deep artistic and social reasons for being, Boris added, and if it's awards that enable those reasons to get out before the public, then, all the better.

“In the case of ‘Navalny,’ these awards have a tangible impact both on his life and on world politics in some way. That feels very, very meaningful to me,” Boris said.

“And with ‘Fire of Love,’ we're trying to tell a story that is about living a life of purpose and a life of passion. It’s about living a life that's in accordance with what you believe and what you care about.”

Fire of Love” is now streaming on Disney+, while “Navalny” is available on HBO Max.

Boris learned the Oscars news just one day after his newest film, “King Coal,” premiered to great enthusiasm Monday at Sundance. That film, about the power coal holds over the identity of people from Central Appalachia, is directed by Elaine McMillion Sheldon. Boris is hoping it might be selected to be featured in Denver Film’s 2023 Women + Film Festival, which takes place in April.

From 'Fire of Love.'

From 'Fire of Love.'

navalny

From 'Navalny.'

John Moore is the Denver Gazette's Senior Arts Journalist. Email him at john.mo[email protected]

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(1) comment

Sojourner

Congratulations to the producer! Hope he makes a lot of money from these.

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