Skip to main content
Amnesty International UK
Log in

Forget the Oscars - here are our human rights winners from 2015

With the lack of diversity in nominees dominating the Oscars this year, here's a list of film winners we hope you can get behind: our top human rights movies from 2015 (in no particular order). 

We're bound to have missed some, but that's what you're here for - leave a comment to let us know what human rights films you loved last year. 

1. Look of Silence 

Up for Best Documentary at tonight’s awards, Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow up to his 2013 The Act of Killing takes us back to Indonesia and to the legacy of violence in 1965-66, when an estimated 500,000-1 million people were killed.

With no perpetrator ever brought to justice, it asks what is it like to survive and live among those who killed your loved ones? Films don’t come much more powerful than this.

2. Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

A visceral portrayal of peaceful protest turned civil war. Winter on Fire documents the Ukrainian revolution of 2014, when student demonstrations in support of the country’s integration into the European Union developed into a violent war of the state vs the people.

The scenes at the handmade fortress on Maidan (the square where most of the clashes took place) transport you back to a darker age – a time of medieval warfare and revolt – only to jolt you right back to the present as you remember this happened in the 21st century and you watched it all unfold live on TV.

Warning: This documentary induces utter outrage – we dare you to not feel terror and anger at the brutality and inhumanity of the Ukrainian government. But the bravery, idealism and warmth of the ordinary Ukrainian people who risked and lost their lives in the fight for freedom wins out in this incredibly vivid documentary.

3. Beasts of No Nation

A controversial absence from the Oscars this year, this fictional portrayal of child soldiers tells an all too real story. Idris Elba stars as the sinister warlord who recruits a young boy to his army.

It’s a film that does not shy away from the brutal realities of a world in which young children are placed in combat situations, made to pick up weapons and fight for causes they barely understand. It packs a punch.

4. What happened, Miss Simone?

Her story, her voice. On stage Nina Simone was known for her free and uninhibited musical expression. Her performances enthralled audiences and she attracted life-long fans. But amid the boycotts and sit-ins of the civil rights era in 1960s America, Simone struggled to reconcile her artistic identity and ambition with her devotion to a movement.

The film’s Director Liz Garbus weaves together Simone’s public successes with her personal struggles using never-before-heard recordings, rare archival footage and her best-known songs.

While the documentary’s star is a real life leading lady, its director is also making history at this year’s Oscars as one of just two female directors to see their feature length film get a 2016 nomination. What Happened, Miss Simone? is nominated for Best Documentary Film. 

5. Spotlight

In 2002, a team of local reports on the Boston Globe uncovered the widespread sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests across the district. They also revealed that the Church had been systematically covering it up for years, moving the priests to work in other parishes.

The story of how these journalists shone a light on the shocking corruption and abuse within one of the most powerful organisations is a reminder of the importance of investigative journalism as a force for truth, justice and accountability.

6. The Danish Girl

Love is the great force in this incredibly moving story inspired by the lives of artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener.

Lili Elbe is an artist torn by the societal norms and restrictions of the early 20th century while trying to transition from male to female. Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.

7. Black panthers: Vanguard of the revolution

Formed in 1966 the Black Panther Party began with the aim of monitoring police behaviour and challenging police brutality. By 1968 FBI Director J Edgar Hoover had dubbed the organisation the ‘the greatest threat to internal security of the country’ and began a programme of intense surveillance — with chilling effect.

Five decades and a considerable amount of controversy later, filmmaker Stanley Nelson released this revealing documentary in which we hear directly from Panthers on the unravelling of the organisation and the fight for civil rights.

8. Carol

Another shun for the best movie Oscar, Todd Haynes’ Carol is a beautiful romantic drama that follows the evolution of a lesbian relationship in 1950s America.

Cate Blanchett stars in the eponymous role as a socialite on the cusp of divorce who, in a chance encounter, meets shop girl Therese (Rooney Mara). Over the course of the film their friendship turns into love, a love that is used against Carol in her divorce in sinister ways.

It is a truly stunning film, and a powerful reminder that love is a human right. 

Think someting's missing? Leave a comment and let us know

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
View latest posts