Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s this week’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and culture:

This winners of the 69th annual Christopher Awards have been announced. The awards were created in 1949 to celebrate writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.”

Tony Rossi, The Christophers’ Director of Communications, says “In a world where there’s a lot of anger and division, people need stories like those we’re honoring with Christopher Awards this year. From heroism in war to ordinary acts of kindness, these stories can serve as instruments of grace, helping us to see beyond our differences and celebrate our common humanity.”

This year’s 21 winners include ABC’s long-running and soon-to-conclude family comedy The Middle, the Academy Award-nominated films Darkest Hour and Lady Bird, and acclaimed historian David McCullough’s book The American Spirit. The awards will be presented in New York City on May 17th, 2018.

Winners in the various categories are:

TV & Cable

ABC News 20/20: Wonder Boy follows the Newman family as they deal with their son Nathaniel’s rare cranio-facial condition called Treacher Collins, the brutal surgeries he must endure as a result, and their efforts to help the world see his beautiful heart, mind, and soul.

The mini-series The Long Road Home (National Geographic Channel) dramatizes the 2004 ambush of the U.S. Army’s First Cavalry Division as they started peacekeeping duties in Sadr City, Iraq, the anxieties of their families back home, and the sacrifice and heroism of ordinary soldiers.

In The Christmas Miracle, an episode of the long-running comedy series The Middle (ABC), Frankie Heck’s adult son Axl refuses to attend church with the family on Christmas Eve, causing her to confront her own lackluster spirituality and recognize the importance of connecting with God.

The Music of Strangers (HBO) celebrates the unique sounds and individuals that make up cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, a group of musicians from the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Africa, who blend their musical cultures in order to build bridges in a divided world.

POV: Swim Team (PBS) highlights Michael and Maria Quay’s efforts to give their son and other young people with autism the opportunity to achieve goals and gain confidence by channeling their energies into sports in an inclusive and encouraging environment.

Feature Films

With a Nazi invasion of England imminent, newly appointed Prime Minister Winston Churchill must rally his unprepared nation and fellow members of Parliament to fight for liberty and freedom in Darkest Hour (Focus Features).

A rebellious and insecure teen, who has a contentious relationship with her mother, strives for independence and experiences moments of grace due to the subtle, unrealized influences of her Catholic education in Lady Bird (A24 Films).

A brave donkey, lovable sheep, and wisecracking dove make up the merry band of misfits on a divine mission to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for Jesus’ birth in the animated Nativity story The Star (AFFIRM Films/Sony Pictures Animation).

Based on the Christopher Award-winning bestseller, Wonder (Lionsgate) tells the story of a 10-year-old boy, born with facial deformities, who enters a mainstream school for the first time and teaches his classmates and community about compassion, acceptance, and the power of kindness.

Books for Adults

Acclaimed historian David McCullough explores the ideals, values, and individuals that brought out the best in our country’s citizens – and that should still inspire and guide us today – in his collection of speeches The American Spirit (Simon & Schuster).

Holocaust survivor Dr. Edith Eva Eger recalls the healing journey she took to overcome survivor’s guilt and become a psychologist who helps others deal with trauma in her memoir The Choice (Scribner/Simon & Schuster).

Radical forgiveness and reconciliation are on display in Andrew Collins’ and Jameel McGee’s Convicted, written with Mark Tabb, (Waterbrook/Penguin Random House), the true story of the unlikely friendship that formed between a crooked white police officer and the innocent African American man he sent to jail.

In Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved By Beauty (Scribner/Simon & Schuster), author Kate Hennessy presents an intimate yet complex portrait of her grandmother, the Catholic social activist and possible future saint, who strove to balance her commitment to serving the poor with that of being a good mother.

I’ll Push You (Tyndale House Publishers) chronicles the physical struggles and spiritual fruits that result when Patrick Gray travels the 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage through the mountains of northern Spain with his best friend, Justin Skeesuck, who is confined to a wheelchair due to a progressive neuromuscular disease.

In Redeeming Ruth (Hendrickson Publishers), Meadow Rue Merrill shares her family’s story of adopting an orphaned Ugandan baby with cerebral palsy, embracing the sacrificial joy of raising her, and allowing God to transform sorrow into hope when tragedy strikes.

Books for Young People

A trip to the park prompts a little girl’s discovery of the world’s ordinary joys and miracles, leading her mom to a new perspective on life in Through Your Eyes by Ainsley Earhardt, illustrated by Ji-Hyuk Kim (Preschool and up, Aladdin Books/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing).

Pocket Full of Colors (Kindergarten and up, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing) by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville, illustrated by Brigette Barrager, introduces readers to trailblazing illustrator, designer, and animator Mary Blair, one of the first women ever hired by Walt Disney Studios.

Harriet Tubman’s bravery extends far beyond her work leading slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad to include being a Union spy, nurse, suffragist, and more, as shown in the poetic tribute Before She Was Harriet (ages 6 and up, Holiday House Publishing), by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome.

In Genevieve’s War (Ages 8 and up, Holiday House Publishing) by Patricia Reilly Giff, an American girl’s vacation at her grandmother’s farm in 1939 France takes an ominous turn when the Nazi occupation begins, leaving her in dangerous circumstances that test her character and sense of personal responsibility.

Tom Rinaldi’s The Red Bandanna (ages 10 and up, Viking/Penguin Young Readers Group) explores the life of 9/11 hero Welles Crowther, who worked on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower and helped lead 18 people to safety before being killed himself.

In racially-charged post-World War I Chicago, the friendship between a white boy and an African American child sparks outrage in the community and challenges the youngsters to practice courage and loyalty in the face of hatred in author Bibi Belford’s Crossing the Line (Young Adult, Sky Pony Press/Skyhorse Publishing).

Here’s this week’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and culture:

God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness releases in theater Good Friday (March 30). Here is the

Synopsis from the press release): God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness is an inspirational drama that centers on Pastor Dave (David A.R. White) and the unimaginable tragedy he endures when his church, located on the grounds of the local university, is burned down. But his dreams of rebuilding the church face an unexpected setback when university officials reject his plans to rebuild, determining that the church is no longer relevant in today’s society. Trusting in the motto that he has lived by that “God is good all the time,” Pastor Dave enlists the legal help of his estranged brother Pearce (John Corbett), who is an attorney but also an atheist. As they partner together for a united cause, the brothers come to understand that not every victory requires defeating the opposition, and there is a greater win when you heal and rebuild with compassion and respect for others.

Here’s this week’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and culture:

Michael Van Dyck has a positive vision for the future of TV and movies.  After 13 years at the packaging powerhouse Paradigm, the veteran literary has left to realize his vision of build his own industry paradigm, one based on building a roster of unique, high quality inspirational brands with broad mainstream appeal. Inspired Entertainment, his new management/production shingle, is being backed by Pure Flix, the very successful independent producer of faith-themed films like God is Not Dead and The Case for Christ. While those movies pretty much speak to the proverbial choir, Inspired will actively seek a more mainstream audience.

Inspired Entertainment will be a one-stop shot to develop, package, and broker big tent inspirational content to broadcast, cable, and streaming networks, building a presence in the entertainment market that Van Dyck believes is not currently being adequately filled. He will also continue to represent staff writer and director clients on current network series.

Van Dyck, who himself has built a pretty impressive resume since entering the TV/Feature Literary agent business in the early 90’s, will manage and direct Inspired Entertainment’s operations, identifying and representing top accredited writers/content creators, actors, and directors through
long-standing relationships with the artists, TV and feature lit agents, managers, and studio/network executives.

Throughout his decades-long career, Van Dyck has had a tremendous influence in the entertainment industry by packaging and selling scripted and non-scripted series and movies of all genres – through it all his passion has been for placing positive entertainment in the hands of networks and studios. While his resume includes the decidedly edgy serial killer drama Dexter for Showtime, he also has been a force behind bringing Peter Barsocchini’s High School Musical  to Disney Channel and Martha Williamson’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered to Hallmark. His other projects have included Kirk Franklin’s Sunday Best for BET and the guardian angel drama pilot Unveiled for NBC, among many others.

Inspired Entertainment has the financial capability to option, buy, and finance development and production. Inspired also controls significant intellectual properties for broadcast, cable, and streaming development in TV and features. In short, the new kid on the block is already a positive force to be reckoned with. We’ll be monitoring its growth here.

John W. Kennedy is a writer and script consultant who specializes in family-friendly and inspirational the development of inspirational entertainment.

Here’s this week’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and culture:

Some faith-themed films worth keeping an eye on this month.

Fathom Events, Chelsea Road Productions and Tricord Media present Ice Dragon: Legend of the Blue Daisies in movie theaters nationwide on Saturday, March 24 at 12:55  and Monday, March 26 at 6:30 PM (all local times).

Based on a short story by Canadian director and producer Bruce Stacey (God Rocks!, Journey to Christmas), the film will premiere in U.S. cinemas for a two-day-only event. This is the first of a planned trilogy that will follow the adventures of Melody, a gifted young dreamer, and her feisty friend Leif, as they work together to save their village from a menacing dragon.  

“The original story sat in my drawer for more than 20 years until I was encouraged by friends at Cartoon Conrad Productions (Kulipari-Netflix Original Series) to dust it off and adapt it for the screen,” Director and Producer Bruce Stacey says. “I am thrilled this family adventure is making it to the big screen for audiences nationwide to enjoy.”

Synopsis: Melody, a gifted young dreamer, and her feisty friend Leif must set aside their differences and use the power of magical Blue Daisies and an ancient Song to save their world from an evil Ice Dragon. When the blue flowers that once bloomed all around her village began to disappear, Melody and her eccentric grandfather recognize this as a sign of great danger… but no one believes them! Racing against time, Melody must convince Leif and the other villagers before it’s too late.

Starring the voice talents of Rheal Rees (Melody), Justin Debé (Leif) and Bill Bray (Nicholai), “Ice Dragon: Legend of the Blue Daisies gend of the Blue Daisies features original songs and engaging characters that highlight this inspiring animated adventure for the whole family.  

Tickets forIce Dragon: Legend of the Blue Daisiescan be purchased beginning Friday, February 9 online by visiting or at participating theater box offices. The event will take place in nearly 700 select movie theaters through Fathom’s Digital Broadcast Network (DBN). For a complete list of theater locations, click on the above link visit the Fathom Eventswebsite (theaters and participants are subject to change).

March 28


Also coming (March 30):