22nd Annual Media Awards for Voices of Courage and Conscience
"Courage and conscience, those are virtues so greatly needed for this troubled and confusing time. Wherever we find them, they should be embraced and celebrated."
- Dustin Hoffman, Academy Award winning actor,
in a message congratulating "5 Broken Cameras" director Emad Burnat
At MPAC's 22nd Annual Media Awards in April, we honored three exceptional projects before a sold-out audience, in an evening filled with emotional moments and standing ovations. This year's recipients of the "Voices of Courage and Conscience Award" were the Sundance Institute, the FOX television show "Bones", and the Oscar-nominated Palestinian documentary "5 Broken Cameras".
Filmmaker Lena Khan, a former Emerging Artist recipient, presented the first award to the Sundance Institute for supporting the professional development of artists from Muslim-majority countries. "Filmmakers in the Middle East can finally tell their own stories. It's going to start from filmmakers whose film were launched, developed or made cool to a mainstream audience by the Sundance Institute," she said.
In accepting the award, Matthew Takata, Manager of the Sundance Institute's Feature Film Program, expressed his gratitude for the honor. "Our Middle East film initiative was started in 2005," he said, "because, like MPAC, we recognized the rapidly evolving role of film and the advance of ideas, movements, values and presenting authentic images of the Middle Eastern societies. It's designed to identify filmmakers with unique, authentic voices throughout the Middle East, and since its inception has developed 80 feature-like films. This award is really important to us and we're really grateful for this recognition."
The second award recipient, FOX's "Bones", in a unique achievement in serial television, has featured a practicing Muslim character as part of the central storyline for the past five seasons. Longtime MPAC ally and former Head of Diversity Development at FOX Entertainment, Ron Taylor, presented the award to series writer Keith Fogelsong and actor Pej Vahdat.
Vahdat plays Arastoo Vaziri, a character that has made significant breakthroughs in viewers' perception of American Muslims. "Thank you, MPAC for honoring me and ‘Bones’ for this wonderful award," Vahdat said. "Thank you FOX for giving me something that I can relate to as an American Muslim."
The third "Voices of Courage and Conscience" Award was presented to a film that has opened the eyes of mainstream audiences to the realities of life in Palestine. Nominated for Best Documentary Feature in the 85th Academy Awards, "5 Broken Cameras" takes us along a photographic journey with Palestinians who stand up against the occupation, using their voices and the power of five different cameras. Presenting the award to the film's co-director Emad Burnat, Rabbi Leonard Beerman spoke of the power of interfaith relations and even introduced a special audio message from legendary actor Dustin Hoffman, who congratulated "5 Broken Cameras" as "a most powerful and very moving film." Burnat was deeply touched by the praise of his work from these legends and spoke of the importance of telling these stories to the world. "My camera is a strong weapon and a strong witness," he said. "We should tell our stories before others hijack them. I did this film from my point of view, from my heart, from my mind. I'm very happy because the message was sent to the world and everybody was shocked and moved by its story."
Closing the evening, MPAC Senior Advisor Dr. Maher Hathout thanked each of the honorees for their excellent, change-inspiring work. "They say that a beautiful sky is the one that is crowded with stars, and we are very happy to see our skies filled with so many stars," he said. "Your being here is proof that the darkness can never take over, one candle can break the thickest darkness."