CHRISTOPHER AWARD WINNERS SPAN CULTURES TO HIGHLIGHT LIFE-CHANGING ACTS OF COMPASSION AND THE INHERENT DIGNITY OF EVERY HUMAN BEING

Creators of films, TV programs and books will be honored at 63rd annual Christopher Awards

NEW YORK, March 21, 2012 — A young adventurer risks his life to reunite trafficked children with their families; African-American maids in the South reclaim their dignity through sharing their stories; a priest travels around the world to explore the history of the Catholic Church. These stories and more are told in the 22 feature films, TV/Cable programs, and books for adults and young people being honored with Christopher Awards in New York on May 24th, 2012.

Created in 1949, the Christopher Awards are presented to writers, producers, directors and illustrators whose work affirms the highest values of the human spirit. Christopher Awards program manager, Tony Rossi, says, “Not only are this year’s winners entertaining, engaging and inspiring, they also reflect the power of our individual choices to shape the lives of others in unexpected ways.”

Feature Films

Buck Brannaman, the real-life “horse whisperer” who transcended a childhood with an abusive father to become a gentle healer of troubled horses and human beings, is the subject of the Cedar Creek Productions documentary, Buck. From DreamWorks Pictures and Touchstone Pictures, The Help gives a voice to African-American housemaids in 1960s-era Jackson, Mississippi, who struggled to maintain their self-worth and human dignity in the face of bigotry and humiliation. Jim Henson’s charming, wise-cracking characters are introduced to a new generation in Walt Disney Pictures’ The Muppets which reunites Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang to save their old theater, while learning lessons about the importance of laughter and the enduring power of friendship. Sony Pictures Classics’ Of Gods and Men dramatizes the true story of French monks in Algeria torn between their desire for safety and their commitment to serving the medical and social needs of the local populace during the nation’s civil war. From DreamWorks Pictures, War Horse revisits the courage, sacrifice and devastation involved in World War I through a story about the unwavering devotion between a young man and his horse. In ARC Entertainment’s The Way, an American doctor discovers his need for faith, community and forgiveness while completing the historical pilgrimage, called the Camino de Santiago, in honor of his late son.

TV & Cable

Non-violent activism in the face of racial injustice rests at the heart of the Emmy Award-winning American Experience: Freedom Riders (PBS/WGBH) about the courageous black and white Americans who endured mob violence to desegregate interstate travel in the South in 1961. For viewers of all faiths, Rev. Robert Barron’s 10-part mini-series, Catholicism (PBS/Word on Fire Ministries), travels around the world to explore the history, beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church through insightful spiritual commentary and breathtaking visuals of artistic treasures. Friendships with his old rabbi and an inner city minister awaken author Mitch Albom’s long dormant quest for God in this Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation of his best-seller, Have a Little Faith (ABC-TV). The Oprah Winfrey Network’s first original documentary, Serving Life (OWN), explores the hospice program inside a Louisiana maximum security prison where many hardened criminals find redemption through the power of caring for those who are dying. The Academy Award-winning documentary Strangers No More (HBO) highlights the Bialik-Rogozin School in Israel which welcomes children fleeing poverty, political adversity and genocide in other countries, offering them a new home and hope for the future.

Books for Adults

A deep compassion for children is the common theme in this year’s five Books For Adults winners. Amy Julia Becker’s memoir A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House/Baker Publishing Group) relates how the disappointment and fear she and her husband experienced after their daughter, Penny, was born with Down syndrome were transformed into a new understanding of parental love, God’s grace, and strength in weakness. In An Invisible Thread (Howard Books/Simon & Schuster) by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski, Schroff—a former ad executive— chronicles her friendship with an 11-year-old homeless boy that helped both of them find healing from their violent, troubled childhoods. I Shall Not Hate (Bloomsbury) shares Palestinian doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish’s devotion to reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, even in the aftermath of his daughters being killed by Israeli soldiers in 2009. In Kisses from Katie (Howard Books/Simon & Schuster) by Katie Davis and Beth Clark, Davis—who was inspired by Mother Teresa—recalls moving to Uganda after graduating high school, becoming a foster mother to 13 children, and creating a ministry that feeds, heals and educates over 1,000 children a week. The plight of human trafficking victims is at the forefront of Conor Grennan’s Little Princes (William Morrow/Harper Collins Publishers) which follows the author through Nepal as he endures a debilitating injury in the midst of a bloody civil war to reunite stolen children with their families.

Books for Young People

From Katrina-ravaged New Orleans to rural Columbia to war-torn Afghanistan and beyond, the Books for Young People category’s six winners reflect themes such as literacy, pursuing your goals, and dealing with disabilities. For preschoolers, author Genny Monchamp and illustrator Karol Kaminski demonstrate fun and simple ways to build character in Shine: Choices to Make God Smile (Pauline Books and Media). In Waiting for the Biblioburro (Tricycle Press/Random House Children’s Books), author Monica Brown and illustrator John Parra craft a tale for kindergartners inspired by traveling librarian Luis Soriano who carries books to children in rural Columbia on his two donkeys. For ages 6 to 8, Super Bowl-winning football coach Tony Dungy, his wife Lauren, and illustrator Ron Mazellan present an important story about considering the needs of someone with a disability in You Can Be a Friend (Little Simon Inspirations/Simon & Schuster). For 8 to 10 year olds, author Jane Paley fictionalizes her own adopted dog’s dramatic rescue from Hurricane Katrina and how he made it to New York City in Hooper Finds a Family (Harper Collins Children’s Books). In former Army soldier Trent Reedy’s Words in the Dust (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Books), readers 10 to 12 are given a fictional, but fact-based look at the choices and challenges faced by a poetry-loving Afghani girl with a cleft lip who yearns for a brighter future. For young adults, Newbery Honor winner Joan Bauer’s Close to Famous (Viking/Penguin Young Readers Group) incorporates humor and heart with serious issues like reading disabilities, grief and abuse in this story about a twelve-year-old girl’s struggle to find her place in the world while pursuing her dream of becoming a professional baker.

The 2012 special Christopher Awards will be announced soon.

For more about the history of the Christopher Awards, read this Patheos article by The Anchoress.

The Christophers, a nonprofit organization founded in 1945 by Maryknoll Father James Keller, is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity. The ancient Chinese proverb—“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”— guides its publishing, radio, leadership and awards programs. More information about The Christophers is available at www.christophers.org. [Editors: A complete list of winners is available upon request.]

About Tony Rossi

After graduating from St. John's University in New York with degrees in Communications and English, Tony Rossi found a job at the Catholic media organization, The Christophers, that allowed him to indulge his interest in religion, media, and pop culture. He served as The Christophers' TV producer for 11 years, and is currently the host and producer of the organization's radio show/podcast Christopher Closeup, writer and editor of their syndicated Light One Candle column, and producer/scriptwriter of the annual Christopher Awards ceremony.


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