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‘Hotel Rwanda’ wins Humanitas Prize

10 writers honored overall, but none for sitcoms
/ Source: The Associated Press

The screenwriters of “Hotel Rwanda” won the Humanitas Prize on Wednesday for their story based on a hotel manager’s efforts to shelter victims of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

Writers Keir Pearson and Terry George received $25,000 in recognition of the film’s “reminder of the importance and duty of universal concern,” the Humanitas Prize organization said.

“Everyone knew what was happening at the time, but all the great leaders of the West did nothing,” Pearson said. “This film was about an ordinary man, a hotel manager, who did do something and did something great.”

More than $135,000 in prize money was distributed to 10 writers Wednesday at the Humanitas Prize awards ceremony.

For the first time in 31 years, however, voters chose not to award a prize in the sitcom category because none of the scripts submitted measured up to standards, Humanitas Prize President Frank Desiderio said.

Desiderio said the decision underscored a feeling in Hollywood that “there’s a dearth of good comedies on right now. The golden age of comedy certainly isn’t now.”

Other winners of the screenwriting awards:

—Ruben Santiago-Hudson won $25,000 for “Lackawanna Blues,” a music- and dance-filled HBO movie based on his experiences growing up in a boardinghouse in the 1950s and ’60s.

—Michael Kang received $10,000 for “The Motel,” a film about a lonely 13-year-old boy who befriends a resident at his parents’ hourly rate motel.

—John Wells won $15,000 for an episode of NBC’s “The West Wing” in which the president calls for peace talks after Americans are killed by Palestinian terrorists.

—Kelly Ward and Cliff MacGillivray received $25,000 for an episode of the animated PBS children’s series “Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks” in which Piggley Winks helps a friend grieve over a pet fish’s death.

—Karen Leigh Hopkins and Alan Marc Levy won $25,000 for the ABC Family TV movie “Searching for David’s Heart” about a teen girl coping with her older brother’s death.

—Film school graduate Erika Kennair received $10,000 for a spec script for “The Bernie Mac Show.” Aspiring screenwriters write spec scripts for existing shows but they are not typically produced.

The Humanitas Prize, founded in 1974, is given annually to TV shows and films that explore meaningful social issues. Past winners include Matt Damon and Ben Affleck for “Good Will Hunting,” Tim Robbins for “Dead Man Walking,” David E. Kelly for “The Practice” and Tony Kushner for “Angels in America.”