START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x
893,724 people care about Women's Rights

An Activist’s Guide to the Oscar Nominated Documentaries

An Activist’s Guide to the Oscar Nominated Documentaries

The Oscars are this weekend, and although most of the attention goes to the fictional films, as a progressive, I’m always intrigued by the documentary category. While the nominated documentary features are usually a strong bunch – this year being no exception – it can be difficult to find them in theaters because of their limited releases. For that reason, I want to break down the nominees in this category from an activist’s perspective so that you have a sense of each film before the big ceremony.

1. How to Survive a Plague

AIDS is such a mainstream concern at this stage that some may forget how it was deemed just a “gay problem” and summarily dismissed by politicians in the ’80s. As their comrades continually fell to the then-mysterious disease, the LGBT community and its allies rallied and engaged in civil disobedience in the face of government resistance. Since every day that passed without a cure meant more lost lives, the activist community could not afford to wait for homophobia to subside; instead, it forced U.S. leaders and scientists to look more seriously at the virus. To its credit, the film also doesn’t shy away from highlighting the inevitable splintering of activist groups with competing agendas, and how that affected the results. More than just a film about the gay community or AIDS itself, How to Survive a Plague is a fantastic portrayal of a passionate social movement that invites you to share in its successes and failures.

2. The Invisible War

This impeccably made film about rape in the military will break your heart. While the rampant rates of sexual assault amongst soldiers is upsetting enough, it is the massive cover-ups, victim-blaming and lack of accountability and discipline that will truly enrage you. The courageous former service members who share their stories portray a horrifying, mismanaged military that has purposefully turned a blind eye to rape rather than addressing the problem. As enraging as learning of this corruption and incompetence is, it is critical to draw attention to this ongoing issue. And as the epilogue reveals, the film has already accomplished some positive change. Previously, each unit’s commanding officer was tasked with handing out punishments (read: usually effectively doing nothing) to accused rapists, but now that responsibility has been removed from their biased hands.

3. 5 Broken Cameras

While Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat did not set out to become a filmmaker, he began shooting footage to document the injustices in his community. As a resident of disputed land in the West Bank, he participated in protests to protect his land and livelihood. Though Burnat always remained peaceful, he was met with violence, even winding up in a hospital for weeks. His video cameras were also met with brutality; over the course of a few years, the film utilizes a loose narrative structure showcasing how five of his cameras are destroyed in Burnat’s pursuit to document the ongoing conflict. Although Burnat tells just one side of a very complicated story, it’s a side that deserves to be seen and heard. His story will resonate with activists engaged in all sorts of struggles for the importance of citizen journalists, as well as the sad reality that oppressive forces will target these citizen journalists for daring to expose the truth.

4. Searching for Sugar Man

Though I am normally partial to documentaries that shed light on an issue, this story about a hunt for a forgotten musician is so excellently crafted that is my favorite of the bunch. Sugar Man, AKA Rodriguez, was a 70s folk musician who was a commercial flop in the United States, but became an unexpected sensation in South Africa. Though more a story than educational, it still appeals to activists anyway: unbeknownst to Rodriguez himself, his songs became anthems for a nation overcoming Apartheid and pursuing progressive values. I won’t spoil where the search for Sugar Man leads, but I will say that, at its core, the film is about how just because you’re not always recognized for the good work you do, that doesn’t mean it’s not touching people in ways you don’t realize. It’s a tear-inducing message that’s as great as Rodriguez’s music.

5. The Gatekeepers

The Gatekeepers is the only nominee I haven’t been able to catch yet, but it has received immensely positive reviews. It showcases six former members of Israel’s secret security agency tasked with combatting terrorists on both sides of the political divide. Critics seem to love not only having a new perspective on historical events, but also the agents’ conflicted morality of having to kill so many in an effort to promote peace.

 

Fortunately, all five nominees are already available on DVD if you want to view them for yourself before Sunday. Even more conveniently, three of the films (The Invisible War, How to Survive a Plague and 5 Broken Cameras) are available on Netflix Instant.

If you love these documentaries, I’d also recommend The House I Live In, which made the Academy Award short list, but fell short of earning a nomination. The House I Live In probes into America’s mangled “war on drugs,” as well as the racism, classism and the prison industrial complex that contribute to perpetuating this injustice.

 

Related Stories:

Where Are All the Minority Directors at the Oscars?

An Eco-Fairy Tale: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Babies Afloat: Coping With Unplanned Pregnancies in the Navy

 

Read more: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it

77 comments

+ add your own
6:48AM PST on Feb 25, 2013

ty

6:24PM PST on Feb 24, 2013

thanks

3:00PM PST on Feb 24, 2013

,

8:10AM PST on Feb 24, 2013

thanks

4:32AM PST on Feb 24, 2013

Thanks

11:53PM PST on Feb 23, 2013

Thanks for the information

2:33PM PST on Feb 23, 2013

Thanks for sharing. I love doco's. Great reviews.

8:19AM PST on Feb 23, 2013

Searching For Sugarman is the finest documentary, due to the exposed heart/spirit core, that I ever have seen. I am hoping to see this film win at the Oscars.

I so admire Emad Burnat and all that he went through to document events in the West Bank. I fear that the report from sheila h., above is true!

5:26AM PST on Feb 23, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

2:45AM PST on Feb 23, 2013

thanks

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

Diane wrote: "and if Matt inadvertently helped you do that, I'm sure he's regretting it." Oops, I…

I don't think I put any clothes in the trash I try to give our clothes to the vets groups/foster care…

meet our writers

Beth Buczynski Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in... more
Story idea? Want to blog? Contact the editors!
ads keep care2 free

more from causes

Animal Welfare

Causes Canada

Causes UK

Children

Civil Rights

Education

Endangered Wildlife

Environment & Wildlife

Global Development

Global Warming

Health Policy

Human Rights

LGBT rights

Politics

Real Food

Trailblazers For Good

Women's Rights




Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.