2014 Media Awards Gala: A Night of Celebration & Inspiration

May 20, 2014

On Sunday night, over 400 people joined the Muslim Public Affairs Council for its 23rd Annual Media Awards Gala honoring “Voices of Courage and Conscience” in Long Beach, CA. Host Aron Kader and special guests Mike Farrell, Hasan Minhaj and Faran Tahir presented awards to the Oscar-nominated film “Omar,” CNN’s “Parts Unknown” episode on Jerusalem, Marvel Comics for introducing American Muslim superhero “Kamala Khan” as Ms. Marvel, and the powerful documentary “Valentino’s Ghost.”

We also presented our first-ever Media Trailblazer Award to the team behind “It’s Better to Jump,” a documentary which has won multiple film festival awards since its release. Plus, the audience enjoyed a powerful performance by Ashly Williams, a talented young singer recently featured on “The X Factor.”

SEE: Photo album of the 23rd annual Media Awards Gala (Flickr)

CNN’s “Parts Unkown” episode on Jerusalem

Best known for traveling the globe on his stomach, Anthony Bourdain is the producer and host of CNN’s “Parts Unknown.”  MPAC’s Hollywood Liaison Deana Nassar presented the Media Award in honor of the powerful premiere episode from the second season, in which Bourdain travels to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. There, he spends time with both Israelis and Palestinians, listening to their stories, challenging their narratives and finding the commonalities between their cultures by talking about their food.

While Bourdain was not able to attend in person because he was on location shooting the show, he sent a video message accepting the award.

“It’s a measure of how twisted and shallow our depiction of Palestinian people is that these images -- showing regular people doing everyday things, cooking and enjoying meals, playing with their children, talking about their lives and hopes and dreams -- come as a shock to so many,” Bourdain said. “The world has visited many terrible things on the Palestinian people, none more shameful than robbing them of their basic humanity. People are not statistics. That is all we attempted to show, a small, pathetically small step toward understanding.”

“Valentino’s Ghost: The Politics Behind Images”

MPAC was honored to have friend, actor and human rights activist Mike Farrell on hand to present the Media Award to “Valentino’s Ghost,” for which he also served as narrator. Farrell is best known for his eight years on the ground breaking show “M*A*S*H” and five seasons on the hit NBC drama “Providence.” 

Director Michael Singh and Producer Catherine Jordan accepted the award for their powerful documentary, which examines how America’s foreign policy agenda in the Middle East influences Hollywood portrayals of Arabs and Muslims. 

During his acceptance speech, Singh reminded the audience that while progress has certainly been made in more accurate and humanizing portrayals, we still have a long way to go to create a space where the stories of Muslims and all marginalized people are given a chance to be heard. 

Marvel Comics' “Ms. Marvel”

Actor and comedian Hasan Minhaj, host of the new documentary special “Stand Up Planet” which premiered last week on PBS, presented the Media Award to Ms. Marvel co-creators Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker of Marvel Comics.

Marvel Comics, home to legendary superheroes such as Spiderman, the X-Men, and Iron Man, announced in Nov. 2013 that it would introduce “Kamala Khan,” a teenage Pakistani American Muslim girl from New Jersey, as the comic book series' newest iconic "Ms. Marvel" character.

“We did not realize that when we were making this comic that it would be so noteworthy,” Amanat said during her moving acceptance speech. “It shows how we still have a long way to go when having a character like this makes news.”


Faran Tahir, best known for his roles in “Iron Man” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” a part for which he was honored with the MPAC Media Award a few years ago, presented the Media Award to director Hany Abu-Assad for his Oscar-nominated film “Omar.”

“Omar” is a groundbreaking film  in many ways. It is the first Palestinian feature film to be almost entirely financed by Palestinians and whose major cast and crew are of Palestinian origin.  It is also the second-ever film from Palestine nominated for an Oscar. In addition to being hailed as a masterpiece, “Omar” wowed audiences at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, winning the coveted Jury Prize.

“I was up here eight years ago accepting my previous MPAC Media Award for ‘Paradise Now,’ and I’m happy to say that things have become much better since then in Hollywood, thanks in part to MPAC,” Abu-Assad said. “Of course, we still have a long way to go. Thank you to MPAC for this award.”

MPAC’s Inaugural "Media Trailblazer Award"

The Trailblazer Award was created to acknowledge the pioneering efforts from American Muslim artists in entertainment media who have worked in Hollywood for decades paving the way for the next generation of young filmmakers. They deserve recognition for the excellence in their craft as well as their ability to channel their gifts into powerful storytelling that sheds light on untold stories.

The first-ever Trailblazer Award was presented to the filmmakers behind “It’s Better to Jump,” Mouna and Patrick Stewart, Gina Angelone and Alejandro Trevino. The documentary gives a voice to Palestinian families in the historic city of Akka in Northern Israel who are fighting every day for the preservation of their heritage.

“Parents, encourage your kids to get into the entertainment industry,” Stewart told the audience. “Encourage them so they can tell their stories and one day be up here graciously accepting an MPAC Media Award for their work.”

The important work conducted by MPAC’s Hollywood Bureau is only possible with your continued support. Please donate generously to help us sustain and expand our work to engage the entertainment industry and support emerging Muslim artists.

In an effort to promote positive and accurate portrayals of Islam and Muslims, MPAC's Hollywood Bureau each year recognizes Voices of Courage and Conscience who are the best in their field. Since 1991, MPAC has honored artists, actors, authors, and activists for their artistic contributions to mutual acceptance and diversity. MPAC's Media Awards are a production of its Hollywood Bureau, which serves as a resource and ally to television networks, film studios, screenwriters and the creative community at large.



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