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Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Recognizing the positive power of storytelling. The 66th annual Christopher Awards will be presented at a gala in New York on May 13, 2015.

The prestigious prizes recognize media professionals ( i.e. producers, writers, directors, authors and illustrators) whose projects serve as reminders of an individual’s potential to positively influence our world. About 1,500 individuals have won Christopher Awards since the program began in 1949.

This year’s honorees include:

Feature Films

The American Nurse (Carolyn Jones Productions): A moving, in-depth portrait of five nurses whose empathy and selflessness lead them to serve those dealing with miscarriage, aging, war, poverty, and prison life.

Selma (Paramount Pictures/Harpo Films): Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. faces violence and blackmail while leading peaceful protests to secure voting rights for African Americans.

St. Vincent (The Weinstein Company): A curmudgeonly senior who smokes, drinks, curses, and cavorts with a prostitute may not seem like a candidate for sainthood, but 12-year-old Oliver makes a solid case for his neighbor’s goodness.

TV & Cable

48 Hours: The Whole Gritty City (CBS News): Documentary explores New Orleans music programs that channel students’ energies in a positive way so they don’t become participants in—or victims of—the violence that surrounds them in their neighborhoods.

The Flash: Pilot episode (The CW): Based on the DC Comics character, Barry Allen becomes the fastest man alive after a science experiment goes awry, allowing him to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a hero.

The Gabby Douglas Story (Lifetime): True story highlights the roles that faith, family, and perseverance played in the gold medal-winning gymnast’s journey to the 2012 Summer Olympics.

POV: When I Walk (PBS/WNET): Filmmaker Jason DaSilva chronicles his own debilitation after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 25 as the love of his wife Alice helps him endure.

Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler: Lourdes (PBS/WGBH):  Documentary follows members of the military injured during wartime who seek physical, emotional, and spiritual healing in the renowned French Catholic shrine.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas (Hallmark Movies and Mysteries): From Martha Williamson, the creative producer/writer behind Touched by an Angel, comes the Christmas edition of her series about four heroic postal detectives who try to unite lost mail with their intended recipients. In this episode, they help answer a little girl’s letter to God while dealing with emotional wounds from their own pasts.

Books for Adults

Fully Alive (Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux): Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver reveals why people with intellectual disabilities have been his greatest teachers in life, giving him a more meaningful way of seeing the world.

Haatchi & Little B (St. Martin’s Press/Thomas Dunne Books): Wendy Holden’s heartwarming story of A boy with a rare genetic disorder and a disabled Anatolian Shepherd puppy, who was abused and left for dead, transform each other’s lives.

The Invisible Front; Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War (Crown Publishers): Yochi Dreazen’s story of how combating the stigma of suicide and mental illness in both the Army and society becomes the primary mission for a decorated Army officer and his wife.

Jesus: A Pilgrimage (Harper One/Harper Collins Publishers): Jesuit priest James Martin chronicles his visit to the Holy Land and invites believers and non-believers to encounter the Christ of history and the Christ of faith.

A Long Way Home (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Group): Author Saroo Brierley shares a personal story of getting lost on a train in India at age five, living on the streets for a year, being adopted by an Australian couple, and finally reconnecting with his Indian family 25 years later with help from Google Earth.

Mercy in the City (Loyola Press): Kerry Weber documents her commitment to living out the Corporal Works of Mercy, which led her to volunteer at New York City homeless shelters and breadlines and visit inmates at California’s San Quentin State Prison.

Books for Young People

I Forgive You (Preschool and up, Pauline Books and Media): Through fun rhymes and colorful illustrations, author Nicole Lataif and illustrator Katy Betz teach children to forgive others like God does and to channel their anger in a positive way.

Maddi’s Fridge (Kindergarten and up, Flashlight Press): When a young girl discovers that her friend’s family is struggling with hunger because they can’t afford food, she comes up with creative ways to rectify the situation. Written by Lois Brandt. Illustrated by Vin Vogel.

Here’s Hank: Bookmarks Are People Too! (ages 6 and up, Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin): Lovable and comical second-grader Hank Zipzer affirms the intelligence and self-esteem of children struggling with dyslexia. By Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver.

Hope Springs (ages 8 and up, Tundra Books/Random House): Though an orphan boy in drought-stricken Kenya is denied water by villagers who fear there won’t be enough for their own families, his kindness and generosity leads him to find a solution for everyone. Written by Eric Walters. Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes.

Eliza Bing is (Not) a Big, Fat Quitter (Ages 10 and up, Holiday House): With a history of not following through on her commitments, Eliza Bing, who has ADHD, needs to muster up all the determination and inner strength she has to prove to herself and her parents that she can finish a martial arts class. Written by Carmella Van Vleet.

Tony Rossi, Director of Communications for The Christophers, says “We recognize and celebrate some of the best work in film, television and publishing every year to remind ourselves — and everyone — that the human spirit can survive through great struggles and accomplish incredible things…These awards, which recognize the power of storytelling to inspire and restore faith, follow the concept inaugurated by The Christophers founder Father James Keller 66 years ago.”

Recent Christopher Award winners include the films Lincoln, Les Miserables, The King’s Speech, Gravity and Frozen. In the TV/Cable category, recent honorees have included ABC News 20/20: Unbreakable and Call the Midwife. Honored books have included Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and American Story by NBC News correspondent Bob Dotson in the Adult category and author/illustrator Courtney Pippin-Mathur’s Maya was Grumpy in the Books for Young People category.

Founded in 1945 by Maryknoll Father James Keller, The Christophers is a nonprofit organization 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.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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