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The Christopher Awards Backgrounder

Who are The Christophers?

Father James Keller, a Maryknoll priest who believed that every individual has the power and responsibility to change the world for the better, founded The Christophers in 1945. Rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity, The Christophers embrace people of every nation, religion and age level. The ancient Chinese proverb—“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”—continues to guide The Christophers’ publishing, TV, radio and Awards programs to this day. 


What is the genesis of the Christopher Awards?

First presented in 1949, the Christopher Awards acknowledge that the role of the media is unique and its influence far-reaching. The Awards were established in accord with the principles of The Christophers to salute media that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.” The Awards are noncompetitive and their goal is to encourage men, women and children to pursue excellence in creative arenas that have the potential to influence a mass audience positively. 


Define “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”

In a nutshell, Christopher Award winners celebrate the humanity of people in a positive way. Award winners encourage audiences to see the better side of human nature and motivate artists and the general public to use their best instincts on behalf of others. 


Are Christopher Award winners strictly religious, family-oriented or G-rated?

No. Christopher Award winners remind audiences, young and old, of all faiths and of no particular faith, of their worth, individuality and power to make a difference and positively impact and shape our world. Themes include, but are not limited to: profiles in courage, stories of determination and vision, and chronicles of constructive action and empowerment. Titles may be age specific, ranging from, but not limited to, Pre-K through adult. MPAA ratings of winning films run the gamut from G through R.


What categories of Awards are presented each year?

Christopher Awards are presented annually to films, TV broadcast and cable network programs, books for adults and children. Special, Leadership and Life Achievement Awards single out individual media achievements and achievers as well. Honorees include David McCullough, Dave Brubeck, Elie Wiesel, Carroll O’Connor, Robert Coles, M.D., William F. Baker, Margaret K. McElderry, Charles Schulz, Art Linkletter, Mary Higgins Clark, Sesame Street, American Masters, “The More You Know,” American Experience, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, The Today Show, Hallmark Hall of Fame, ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre, Face the Nation, and CBS News Sunday Morning. Since 1987, the James Keller Award has acknowledged a young person or adult who is dedicated to the well-being of today’s youth. Keller Award recipients include Children’s Television Workshop co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney; Special Olympics architect Eunice Kennedy Shriver; children’s rights advocate Craig Kielburger; hockey Hall-of-Famer and patron of disabled and critically ill children Pat LaFontaine; community activist/actor Andrew Shue; dance educator Jacques d’Amboise; and Big Bird’s alter ego, master puppeteer Caroll Spinney. 


To whom are the annual Awards presented?

Christopher Awards are presented directly to writers, producers, directors and illustrators in the publishing, film, broadcast TV and cable industries.


Why single out those individuals from the other creative personnel?

The Christopher Awards specifically honor the storytellers who, whether using fact or fiction, tell us something about the human condition: writers and illustrators who craft words and images into a clear, cohesive vision; producers who package the creative and financial resources for a project; directors who orchestrate the talents and temperaments of hundreds of people who contribute their creative skills.  


What are the basic criteria for Christopher Awards recognition? 

To be eligible for a Christopher Award during its year of release, a film, TV and cable program, adult and children’s book must:

  • …exhibit exceptional artistic and technical proficiency and a unique vision.

  • …be significantly positioned to impact the widest possible audience within its age-level specifications, ranging from, but not limited to, Pre-K through adult.

  • …affirm the highest values of the human spirit.


How are the winners determined?

There are no entry forms or submission fees. Potential winners are nominated and reviewed throughout the year by panels of media professionals, members of The Christophers’ staff with expertise in film, TV and book publishing, and by specially supervised children’s reading groups. Friends of The Christophers are also encouraged to nominate titles. The Awards are presented annually in New York City in the Spring.


How many Christophers have been awarded to date?

Since 1949, 1,377 films, books, broadcast TV and cable programs, their 3,863 creators, and 95 special honorees have received Christopher Awards. The number of Awards presented in each category varies, depending on the number and quality of titles in release for that year. For example, there might be as many as five or more Awards presented in one category or no Award, depending on the judgment of the panels. 


What do the Christopher Awards look like?

The Christopher Award is a bronze medallion, four inches in diameter. A stylized candle overprinted with the ancient Chinese proverb and Christopher credo—“Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”—appears on one side. On the reverse side: an image representing the Greek word Christophoros, meaning “bearer of Christ.”

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