Christopher Award Winners Celebrate Courage, Grace, Mercy

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Twenty feature films, TV programs, and books for adults and young people were honored with Christopher Awards in the program’s 71st year.

The Christopher Awards were created in 1949 to celebrate writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit” and reflects the Christopher motto, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” The Christophers, a nonprofit founded in 1945 by Maryknoll Father James Keller, is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity. 

Winners in the various categories are:  

TV & Cable

On the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that turned the tide of World War II, American soldiers who took part in the battle travel to France and recall the heroism and horrors they experienced in “Return to Normandy.” Young people with physical disabilities take part in a special dance program that demonstrates their can-do spirit, as well as the powers of inclusion and a loving community, in “America ReFramed: Perfectly Normal For Me.” “College Behind Bars” profiles a small group of incarcerated men and women transforming their lives as they pursue college degrees.

In “Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings: These Old Bones,” family, faith and forgiveness come into play when a young lawyer struggles to maintain her principles while suing a clairvoyant old woman with whom she feels a mysterious connection. “I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story” dramatizes the true story of an African-American foster child who is separated from the loving white caseworker. In “Two Turtle Doves,” three people grieving the loss of loved ones during the Christmas season find healing and joy through talking about their grief.  

Feature Films

In “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” an assignment to interview children’s television host Mister Rogers inspires a cynical journalist to face his demons and transform his family relationships for the better. “Just Mercy” chronicles crusading lawyer Bryan Stevenson’s real-life battle to exonerate an innocent African-American man condemned to death row in Alabama, following a trial marked by racism and lies. Tired of living in a nursing home for senior citizens, a young man with Down syndrome escapes and embarks on an exciting and dangerous road trip with two lost souls in “The Peanut Butter Falcon.”  

Books for Adults

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jennifer Berry Hawes explores the difficult road to healing and forgiveness faced by family members and the community at large after the racist murders of nine members of Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanuel AME Church in “Grace Will Lead Us Home.” Chris Edmonds reveals his father Roddie’s untold story of courage, which saved the lives of hundreds of American soldiers being held in a Nazi POW camp during World War II, in “No Surrender,” written with Douglas Century. Best-selling author David Brooks turns his attention to the quest for moral joy found in living a selfless life of purpose in “The Second Mountain.”

Attorney and former gymnast Rachael Denhollander documents her relentless pursuit of justice for herself and hundreds of her fellow athletes, who were sexually assaulted by USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, in “What Is a Girl Worth?” Jeannie Gaffigan, mother of five and comedy writing partner of husband Jim Gaffigan, revisits her 2017 diagnosis with a life-threatening brain tumor, her arduous surgery and recovery, and her renewed gratitude for God, family, and friends in “When Life Gives You Pears.” The Gaffigans are parishioners of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan.  

Books for Young People

“One More Hug” by Megan Alexander, illustrated by Hiroe Nakata, follows a young boy from infancy through his departure for college. “Sergeant Billy” by Mireille Messier, illustrated by Kass Reich, shares the true story of a goat who joined a Canadian battalion during World War I and saved the lives of his comrades. The promise of liberty for a Jewish mother and daughter fleeing persecution in their homeland comes to life in “Gittel’s Journey” by Lesléa Newman, illustrated in period style by Amy June Bates.

A girl’s rift with her best friend leads her to learn lessons about forgiveness, character and her unhealthy obsession with winning in “The Pumpkin War” by Cathleen Young. In Nazi Germany, two boys—one Christian, one Jewish—try to make sense of the growing violence and anti-Semitism around them as they’re faced with life-and-death moral choices in “Crushing the Red Flowers” by Jennifer Voigt Kaplan. Three sixth-graders discover that acts of kindness can have positive ripple effects and that storytelling can bring people together in “A Drop of Hope” by Keith Calabrese.

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