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OSI-Funded Film Wins Human Rights Prize at Film Festival

Milena Kaneva's OSI-supported documentary film Total Denial, about the human rights abuses of Burmese villagers who lived in the path of an oil pipeline, earned the Václav Havel Special Award at the 2006 One World Festival in Prague.

Kaneva worked for five years to produce the film, which documents the landmark lawsuits brought by Burmese villagers against the American oil corporation UNOCAL. Shot in Burma and Thailand, Total Denial explains how UNOCAL was complicit with its joint-venture partner, the military government of Burma, which used forced labor and egregious human rights abuses to provide security for a pipeline. Through a series of court cases in the California federal and state courts, those representing the villagers argued that Unocal violated California business practice law through their involvement with the Burmese army’s use of torture, physical assaults, and forced labor in the construction of the pipeline. The cases were eventually settled out of court in 2004.

The film centers on Ka Hsaw Wa, an ethnic Karen whose first-hand knowledge of abuses committed by the Burmese military inspired Kaneva’s project. The film follows Ka Hsaw Ya and Katie Redford, an American lawyer, as they gather evidence of human rights violations and environmental abuses from hundreds of victims inside Burma along the Yadana pipeline and bring them to a legal team in the United States.

In addition to supporting Kaneva’s documentary, OSI provided funding for some of the legal teams representing the Burmese plaintiffs in both lawsuits.

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