Family Ties, Overcoming Adversity Common Thread For This Year’s Christopher Awards Winners


The Academy Award-nominated films “Hidden Figures” and “Hacksaw Ridge,” along with the pilot episode of NBC’s blockbuster series “This Is Us,” are among 22 feature films, TV/cable programs, and books for adults and young people to be honored at the 68th annual Christopher Awards ceremony in Manhattan May 16.

The Christopher Awards celebrate writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.” The Christophers is a nonprofit organization in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity founded by Maryknoll Father James Keller in 1945.

“Movies that entertain are the norm, but films that enlighten, educate and inspire are so rare, yet so important and the Christopher Award shines light on these films, further illuminating their footprint on the planet,” said Hidden Figures writer/director Ted Melfi, who also won a Christopher Award for his 2014 film “St. Vincent.”

This year’s Christopher Awards are:

TV & Cable

Grieving mothers and fathers, whose children have been killed while serving in the military, receive support and healing from a program run by Blue Star Moms and San Francisco’s Marines’ Memorial Association in “60 Minutes: Gold Star Parents” (CBS News). The friendships that form between coach and players on an inner city girls’ high school soccer team drive them to pursue big dreams in spite of poverty, discrimination and an underfunded school in “America ReFramed: In the Game” (World Channel). “Born This Way: Bachelor Pad” (A&E), an episode of the reality series about young adults with Down syndrome, highlights the determination and independent spirit that leads one woman to her first job interview.

“Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love” (NBC) revisits the singer’s childhood with a story about her siblings and father embracing selflessness and the spirit of giving. The documentary “Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing” (HBO) provides an intimate look at those who lost limbs in the Boston terror attack, and their unyielding efforts to reclaim their lives. Adoption, forgiveness, weight struggles and career frustration are explored in “This Is Us: Pilot” (NBC), which introduced viewers to the Pearson family, whose members are grounded by sacrificial love for each other.

Feature Films
“Hacksaw Ridge” (Lionsgate) dramatizes the life of Congressional Medal of Honor winner Desmond T. Doss, a conscientious objector who saved 75 men during the World War II battle of Okinawa without firing a single shot. The unknown NASA heroines who helped launch Americans into space get their due in “Hidden Figures” (20th Century Fox), the true story of three African-American mathematicians who faced down racism and sexism to help the United States win the space race. A medical crisis reunites a dysfunctional family and provokes soul-searching in each member about fear, mercy and the complex but loving relationships between parents and children in “The Hollars” (Sony Pictures Classics). In “Queen of Katwe” (Disney/ESPN Films), a girl named Phiona seems destined to live a life of poverty in Uganda until a local church ministry’s chess coach discovers her innate talent for the game and guides her toward becoming an international champion.

Books for Adults
In her memoir “Carry On” (Harper Wave/Harper Collins), veteran ESPN producer Lisa Fenn reveals the life-changing bonds that developed between her and two disabled high school wrestlers she was covering. “The Hundred Story Home” (Grace Press) shares author Kathy Izard’s journey from award-winning graphic designer to soup kitchen volunteer to developer of housing for chronically homeless men and women. Journalist Ron Fournier embarks on eight road trips with his son Tyler, who has Asperger syndrome, and challenges parents to accept their children in “Love That Boy” (Harmony Books/Crown Publishing).

“Operating on Faith” (Loyola Press) is humorist Matt Weber’s touching and funny account of the life-threatening medical problem he faced shortly after getting married that brought him to a deeper love for his wife, Nell, and new perspective on God. Pediatric rehabilitation doctor Chuck Dietzen recalls the patients, family members and recent saint who taught him to live a purposeful life in “Pint-Sized Prophets” (Advantage Media Group). Retired NASA astronaut and Space Shuttle veteran Mike Massimino guides readers from the earth to the stars in “Spaceman” (Crown Archetype/Crown Publishing), his inspiring memoir about the challenges he faced in pursuit of his dream job and the power of teamwork.

Books for Young People
A young bird feels inadequate compared to other animals until learning a lesson about its own unique, God-given talent in “Baby Wren and the Great Gift” (Preschool and up, Zonderkidz) by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Jen Corace. “What Do You Do With a Problem?” (Kindergarten and up, Compendium) by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom, follows a boy who discovers that facing a problem helps him to learn and grow. “Ida, Always” (Ages 6 and up, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster), by Caron Levis, illustrated by Charles Santoso, helps children deal with loss through a story about the friendship between Gus and Ida, two polar bears in the Central Park Zoo.

While growing up in a Paraguayan slum, 11-year-old Ada Rios finds hope and self-confidence when a new arrival creates a now-world renowned orchestra using instruments made of recycled trash in the true story “Ada’s Violin” (Ages 8 and up, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) by Susan Hood, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. Heart problems prevent Jeremiah, a baseball-loving 12-year-old from playing the sport, but his expertise, passion and kindhearted nature renew a town rocked by a sports scandal in the novel “Soar ” (Ages 10 to 12, Viking/Penguin Young Readers Group) by three-time Christopher Award winner Joan Bauer. The historical novel “Unbound” (Young Adult, Scholastic Press/Scholastic) by Ann E. Burg, chronicles the trials of a slave girl named Grace who challenges her owners’ cruelty and escapes with her family into the Great Dismal Swamp, a real-life hidden community in the wilderness for people fleeing bondage.


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