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‘Dirty Pretty Things,’ ‘Joan of Arcadia,’ Others Win Humanitas Prizes

Nine writers earned $115,000 in prize money for scripts that “entertain and enrich” at yesterday’s Humanitas Prize luncheon.

More than 350 writers, directors, producers and movie industry executives gathered in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Los Angeles for the 30th anniversary of the Humanitas Prize, initiated by Father Ellwood “Bud” Kieser of the Paulist Fathers.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Steven Knight won $25,000 for his feature-length script of “Dirty Pretty Things.” The film, set in a West London hotel, was cited for “its stark and realistic depiction of the life of undocumented workers.”
 
CBS’ pilot episode of “Joan of Arcadia” won in the 60-minute category, earning writer Barbara Hall $15,000. “Joan,” about a teenage girl who receives messages from God, was cited for “its creative and insightful look at the spiritual nature of human beings.”
 
The Humanitas Prize is awarded to scripts that explore human values, which Humanitas recognizes as openness and trust, curiosity, self-knowledge, self-affirmation, honesty, discipline, freedom, creativity, responsibility, love, family, and universal concern.
 
“The HUMANITAS Prize honors writing that reveals the deepest realities of what it is to be human,” said Humanitas Prize President Frank Desiderio in a June press release announcing the finalists. “This is all the more important since television has taken a dehumanizing turn with some of the so-called reality shows.”
 
Thirty-three writers were finalists in the prize’s seven categories.
 
The seven categories were: feature film, 90-minute script, 60-minute script, 30-minute script, children’s animation, children’s live-action, and Sundance feature film.
 
Joining Knight as a finalist in the feature-film category were Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson and David Reynolds for “Finding Nemo,” and Gary Ross for “Seabiscuit.”
 
Hall was up against Joy Gregory, who also penned an episode of “Joan of Arcadia,” and John Wells, for an episode of “ER.”
 
(To see the complete list of finalists, go here. To see the complete list of winners, go here.)
 
Desiderio announced a new fund-raising campaign yesterday for children’s writing and workshops.
 
“Over the years numerous studies have reported that children imitate behavior they witness on
television,” Desiderio said in his “State of the Prize” speech. “At its best, this can mean sharing and caring, at its worst it can mean hitting and kicking. We want to help improve the quality of children’s entertainment.”
 
The Humanitas organization has given more than 220 awards and $2 million in prize money over its 30-year history.
 
Past winners of the Humanitas Prize have included Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing”), Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (“Good Will Hunting”), Tim Robbins (“Dead Man Walking”), Steven Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”) and Bill Moyers, who has won several special awards from Humanitas for his TV news specials.
 
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.

The Humanitas Prize Web site is here.
 
More information about Humanitas Prize founder Bud Kieser is here.
 
Also read:
 
Critics Debate the God in ‘Joan of Arcadia’
 
Study Guides for ‘Joan of Arcadia’
 
Our review of “Dirty Pretty Things.”