5 Oscar Winning Films that Stood on the Side of Justice

It’s Oscar season! In honor of the 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary on the death penalty, Paradise Lost 3, we thought it was a good time to look back at past Oscar winners that have also helped broaden our understanding of a range of human rights issues.

Movies can be a powerful tool for raising awareness about an issue, or even inspiring people to take action. And in our everyday work at Amnesty International, we aspire to do the same.

With a rich 84 year history of great films, we started looking at Best Picture winners from 1980 and onwards. Here are 5 Best Picture Winning films that not only continue to influence generations of filmmakers but also address social injustices still relevant in our world today.  Read on then let us know what films have inspired you.


Amnesty International in a Dictator's Zoo?

the dictator - sasha baron cohen

Sasha Baron Cohen as Supreme Leader Shabazz Aladeen

English comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, better known for his character Borat, has a new satirical movie in the works – The Dictator, depicting the leader of the imaginary authoritarian Republic of Wadiya. The latter has just launched its website, and the tourism section mentions Amnesty International:

Many dozens of endangered species can be found caged at the Wadiyan National Zoo, including pandas, white tigers, and Amnesty International officials.

Of course The Dictator is a comedy (see the trailer), but it will presumably highlight – through humor and exaggeration - human rights violations and abuse of power. In that sense, it may be worth watching it, of course after the Wadiyan National Zoo sets Amnesty International officials free so that they can make it to the Annual General Meeting in Denver in late March and continue fighting for a world without abuse of power!

Now, visit our online action center to fight real-life abuses.

Female Vocalists Bring Strength and Soul to New “Chimes of Freedom” Album

Guest Blog by Steven Lawrence

Chimes of FreedomWith the Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International  release today (January 24) reviews are rolling in, but so far the critics have overlooked the fact that the album represents the greatest collection ever of Dylan covers by female artists.

Of the 76 tracks, 19 are by women artists. Some are from singers you’d expect, like Joan Baez (Seven Curses) and Patti Smith (The Drifter’s Escape), who both have a history of covering Dylan.  And there’s a terrific live version by Adele of Make You Feel My Love (which for me tops the studio version). Here’s a quick guide:


Create Your Own Amnesty Anthem!

ujam amnesty anthemTo celebrate our 50th anniversary, Academy-Award winning Composer Hans Zimmer and film-score collaborator Lorne Balfe composed a beautiful anthem for Amnesty Internatonal.

You can join the celebration by creating and spreading your own version of the anthem via a contest on U-Jam to see who can “re-jam” the best anthem.  For musicians and non-musicians alike, no music equipment needed, just your inspiration and creativity!  All you need to do is “rejam” the Anthem — re-arrange the music using tracks readily offered, and/or re-record the melody with your favorite instrument or sing with your own lyrics.

Following a public voting phase where you encourage your friends, family and fans to help you make the Top 10, the composers along with U.S. rapper and producer Pharrell Williams will judge the submissions. This is open to people in the US, UK, Canada and Germany, with prizes including $1,000. The deadline is 5th February – so get jamming!  Winners will be announced February 10th.

A Lens on Human Rights: Film Festival Marks Amnesty's 50th Anniversary

Artists, musicians and filmmakers have always played a crucial role in the human rights movement, using their voices to protest injustices and inspire others to care. This Saturday, October 15th this vital relationship continues, as the Hamptons International Film Festival marks the 50th anniversary of Amnesty International with a special panel focusing on the 50-year legacy of the American Civil Rights Movement.

The panel looks at this movement through three feature films about Americans who worked tirelessly for human dignity and equality during the 1950s and 1960s: Sing Your Song about Harry Belafonte; The Loving Story; and All Me: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert.  The panel will be an open discussion featuring each of the film directors, led by Amnesty International USA board member Joan Libby Hawk. If you’re in the New York area, join us at 2PM October 15th at the First Presbyterian Church Session House in East Hampton, New York. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Women, War and Peace: An Interview with Pamela Hogan

bosnian women

Bosnian women bury their sons and husbands at Srebrenica, site of the worst massacre on European soil since World War II. Photo by Kate Holt.

Amnesty’s Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group member Alisa Roadcup was fortunate to sit down with Pamela Hogan, Co-Creator of Women, War & Peace, a bold new five-part PBS television series challenging the conventional wisdom that war and peace are men’s domain.  The first part of the documentary airs Tuesday, October 11, on PBS.


Joan Baez, Amnesty and You

Following is a special message from longtime Amnesty supporter Joan Baez during our annual September Membership Drive:

Joan Baez

Dear Amnesty Supporter,

All my life I’ve felt humbled in the face of the suffering of others. It is only that I, by accident of birth, was born in the right place at the right time, and that someone else, not me, huddles in a prison cell, is tortured, and faces the unbearable consequences of having been born in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or, as the legendary Phil Ochs song says, there but for fortune, go you or I.

Happily for me, I discovered early on that, in the words of Swedish Ambassador Harald Edelstam, “I cannot tolerate injustice.” This inability to tolerate injustice has brought me to the roots of human misery, called me to engage in the fight for the rights, freedoms, and the dignity of others. And in so doing, has helped me to maintain my own dignity.


Music to Inspire Children to Play Fair and Show Empathy

By Suzanne Trimel, Media Relations Director

What better way to introduce young children to human rights – and the values of fairness, equity, empathy and non-violence — than through upbeat music from all over the world?

That’s the thinking behind Kids World Party!, the latest CD from Putumayo Kids, released in partnership with Amnesty International to celebrate our 50th anniversary. 7% of each CD sale will be donated to support Amnesty’s life-saving work.


Amnesty TV Is Here!

In the first episode of Amnesty’s new online magazine show (created by Amnesty UK) we have Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales talking about Internet freedom, a birthday message from Aung San Suu Kyi the latest human rights news you may not have seen on your regular news station as well as an instructional video on how to perform the perfect Carpet Karaoke. Don’t know what that is? Watch now.