Oscar Craze: Justice Implications


BY MCKENZAE BARTELSFebruary 14, 2013

It was a busy week in the ISN office, but we are not slave drivers (that would be counter-mission – right!?).  In an effort to savor some of the excitement of the Oscar craze this week, we asked two of our interns (Sadie and McKenzae) to take a couple minutes and think about movies from the past year that in their view have social justice implications.   They offered a few suggestions below and also listed a number of their all-time “social justice movie favorites.”  Of course, we would love to hear your ideas as well!

The ISN Staff


The Hunger Games

Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. Part twisted entertainment, part government intimidation tactic, the Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which “Tributes” must fight with one another until one survivor remains.Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentor-ship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. If she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. (2012)

Merida is a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor. Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin, surly Lord Macintosh and cantankerous Lord Dingwall. Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric old Witch for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late. (2012) 

Because now, more than ever, this is essential viewing for each American family (and young people everywhere). The bullied kids that Hirsch follows convey such raw emotion in their testimonies that it’s hard not to feel personally connected to their stories. The film is beautifully executed, and it’s both infuriating and at the same time therapeutic. (2012) 

Les Miserables
Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption—a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Jackman plays ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Crowe) after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s (Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever. (2012)

Django Unchained
German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz buys a slave named Django and promises him his freedom once he has helped Schultz track down the criminals he is seeking.  But Django has a wife who was sold off years ago, and his partnership with Schultz may offer him a chance to find her. (2012)


The Help
An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis. (2011)

Hotel Rwanda
Ten years ago, as the country of  Rwanda descended into madness, one man made a promise to protect the family he loved and ended up finding the courage to save over 1200 people. Real-life hero Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager in Rwanda, used his courage and cunning to shelter over a thousand refugees from certain death. (2004)

Schindler’s List
Sobering account of an opportunistic German businessman (Liam Neeson) out to make his fortune by exploiting Jewish labor in occupied Poland but the increasing barbarism of Nazi racial policies and the sadistic perversions of the local commandant (Ralph Fiennes) cause him to risk his life trying to save the Jews in his employ. Director Steven Spielberg re-stages this Holocaust story on an epic scale that gives horrifying dimension to one man’s attempt to save some innocent lives, though providing little insight in the German’s moral transformation or the individual lives of his Jewish workers. Realistically graphic treatment of an infamous historical period and its crimes against humanity, a few discreet sexual scenes and occasional rough language. (1993)

Slumdog Millionaire
A vibrant drama in which a Mumbai street kid (Dev Patel), suspected of cheating on a TV quiz show, tells his incredible life story to the police. Director Danny Boyle’s sweeping panorama, though harrowing, stresses the dignity of the underprivileged and the primacy of spiritual values. (2008)

Gandhi’s life, principles and power explode on the screen with vivid scenes such as the horrific massacre at Amritsar, where the British opened fire on 15,000 unarmed men, women and children, and the dramatic march to the sea where Gandhi led thousands of his fellow Indians to prove that sea salt belonged to all and was not just a British commodity. A distinguished cast of characters surrounds Academy Award®-winning Ben Kingsley as Gandhi, including Candice Bergen, Martin Sheen, John Gielgud and Trevor Howard. A vision of the heart and soul of a man, GANDHI is a classic epic as timeless as Gandhi himself. (1982)


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