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.


Has India Abandoned Burma?

By Anil Raj, Myanmar (Burma) Country Specialist

Gandhi once said, “An ounce of practice is worth more than a ton of preaching.” But in the decades since Gandhi and in an environment premised on India’s towering pursuits of economic development and regional security, I am beginning to wonder if India is doing more preaching than practice when it comes to promoting democracy and freedom – the very things that it fought so hard to win over from the British Raj.

Aung San Suu Kyi

India has traditionally been a key ally for Myanmar’s (Burma) democratic opposition, most prominent is sure to be none other than Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has remained under detention or house arrest for the last 15 of 21 years.  India has long provided safe haven for fleeing pro-democracy Burmese activists and has bestowed Suu Kyi with India’s highest civilian honors.

However, in the last two decades Indian foreign policy vis-à-vis Myanmar has made an about-face from its former ‘principled’ approach, and reached an unprecedented threshold when Myanmar head of State, Senior General Than Shwe, visited India for five days in July.  The visit ushered in a new strategic partnership between the two neighbors as part of India’s “Look East” policy aimed to enlarge India’s presence in the region and to keep China’s growing presence at bay.

But it wasn’t the panoply of high-level and expensive agreements that were reached, nor was it the fact that none of these agreements were contingent upon Myanmar’s willingness to release Aung San Suu Kyi or the 2,200 other political prisoners, or any push to ensure free and fair elections in Myanmar later this year – the first in 20 years.  What was shocking to me was that India allowed Than Shwe to pay homage to the burial site of Gandhi.

It was entirely unpalatable to me that India could allow one of the world’s most flagrant violators of human rights to stain the legacy of a man who led masses to peacefully overthrow a repressive colonial overlord not entirely different from that of the present-day Myanmar, or to symbolically forsake its support for Aung San Suu Kyi, herself a sort of “Burmese version” of Gandhi in her own right.


Hearty Congratulations to Burmese Junta Leader Than Shwe

This is not Myanmar junta leader General Than Shwe

The military junta leader of Myanmar (Burma), (senior) General Than Shwe, went on a multi-day visit to India.  While there, Than Shwe (responsible for widespread human rights violations in Burma, including the detention of thousands of prisoners of conscience) received a most marvelous gift from the Government of India, a bust of Mahatma Gandhi, the “apostle of non-violence.” Surely the sense of irony is lost on the victims of human rights in Burma.

So, again a hearty congratulations to the leader of Myanmar junta Than Shwe for the successful trip to India and a special congratulations to the Government of India for undermining the shreds of hope for the people of Myanmar.  It’s a job well done– I hope the Government of India enjoys the undeserved fruits of its cynical foreign policy until human rights comes to Myanmar.  And then…?

Check out Amnesty’s brand new action page on MyanmarStand with the People of Myanmar. Demand they be given the three freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Also, show your support on twitter by start using #3freedoms.