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Canadian filmmaker Daniel Roher accepts the Oscar for Best Documentary, at the Dolby Theatre, in Hollywood, Calif., on March 12.PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Images

Toronto filmmaker Daniel Roher has stared down criminals, killers and Kremlin spies, so you would think that little would rattle the man. Yet the director of Navalny was a big old pile of nerves all the same this past Sunday night inside L.A.’s Dolby Theatre, as the nominees for Best Documentary were read out by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson during the 95th annual Academy Awards.

“I put my wife’s hand to my chest to feel how fast my heart was beating,” the director recalls.

Roher needn’t have worried about the palpitations. At just 29 years old, the Canadian filmmaker is now forever stamped into Oscar’s history book, responsible for not only making an Academy-approved doc tracing the struggle of Vladimir Putin’s No. 1 enemy, opposition politician Alexey Navalny, but also for delivering one of the most stirring acceptance speeches in recent Oscars history.

“Alexey, the world has not forgotten your vital message to us all,” Roher said onstage while accepting the award. “We cannot, we must not be afraid to oppose dictators and authoritarianism. Wherever it rears its head.”

Barely 12 hours after his remarkable win, Roher spoke with The Globe and Mail about his Oscars whirlwind.

How did you manage your expectations going into the ceremony Sunday night?

I went into the show not expecting to win, but I’m unashamed about saying that I wanted the opportunity to say something in front of the whole world. So for that reason I was hopeful, and very anxious. The films of our fellow nominees were astounding, four masterclasses of non-fiction cinema. It could’ve gone any other way.

Was the plan always to have Navalny’s wife Yulia speak onstage?

It wasn’t a plan long in the making but we had a discussion with the film’s collective about how we would want to approach the moment if we won. We felt it was appropriate for me to speak on behalf of the team, and if Yulia was up to it, she could deliver a concise message to the world, too. I was very happy to empower that exciting, meaningful moment.

Yulia Navalny, wife of jailed dissident Alexey Navalny, speaks next to her daughter Daria during the Academy Awards.CARLOS BARRIA/Reuters

Walk me through the night from the moment your film was crowned the winner.

It was the most extraordinary fever-dream whirlwind, a surreal moment to cap off two years of an already extraordinary fever-dream whirlwind. When we got off the stage, I was stunned. I don’t think I’ve ever been truly stunned before. I was crying, Yulia was crying. I just wished that Alexey could be there with us.

We went upstairs to walk down this thing called the “Winners Hallway,” which is a thing you really want to walk down, that takes you to the press room. Ke Huy Quan from Everything Everywhere All at Once was walking toward us and I just jumped into his arms to embrace him. We were both stunned and petrified.

I saw the two kids who made An Irish Goodbye [which won the Oscar for Best Live-Action Short Film] and the three of us were just flabbergasted. They’re like 26, I’m 29 – talk about Imposter Syndrome. Then I’m giving Jamie Lee Curtis a hug. If you’re there, you’re for one evening in this tiny little club of people who have climbed the highest mountain – Movie Everest. You’re blessed with pride and joy for one another.

Growing up as a kid in Toronto, was this your Mount Everest?

I don’t know, maybe if I was 15 or 16 coming home on the subway from the Etobicoke School of the Arts I would think about what it would be like, but I wasn’t a fan of the Oscars, never been attracted to the glitz and glam. That’s not why I do this work. It’s a coincidence I ended up there. If you start making films, especially documentaries, because you want to reach that mountaintop, forget about it.

Do you have any sense of when Alexey Navalny might become aware of the win?

My understanding is that he already knows about it, but I look forward to hearing his remarks about it. I think he’s going to be really excited.

Navalny is available to stream now on Crave.