Feature films On the Basis of Sex and Love Simon, along with TV series God Friended Me were among the big winners at the 44th annual Humanitas Prize ceremony tonight at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
A surprise double award, for 30-Minute Television Comedy, went to Dear White People and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
The Humanitas prize was created to honor film and TV writers whose work inspires compassion, hope, and understanding in the human family. For the second year, all prize winners are donating their $20,000 awards to nonprofits engaged in nurturing young writers.
The ceremony also honored Marta Kauffman with the Kieser Award and Kenya Barris (Black-ish) with the Voice for Change Award.
Barris was unable to attend due to a family emergency and his award was accepted by Black-ish cast member Marcus Scribner. Scribner talked about Barris’ courage in taking on controversial topics, including whether or not it’s OK for African Americans to use the “N” word among themselves. “You know who you are who can say it, alright?” Scribner joked to the audience. “(Barris) is never out to make bank, he’s out to make change.”
Kauffman, best known for Friends and creator of Grace and Frankie, didn’t wait until dinner was served to offer pointed comments on the success of the Netflix comedy examining complex relationships of people of a certain age.
“The baby boomers are growing up, and we’re taking over!” she told Deadline at cocktail time. She added audiences of all ages are connecting with the show. She said middle-aged women thank her for telling them what to expect via Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) who have a combined age of 160.
“Nobody told me that my pubic hair was going to fall out,” cracked the 62-year-old Kauffman.
Later in the evening, Kaufman was introduced by feminist attorney Gloria Allred, who joked: “President Trump is not clapping.” Kauffman talked about her long journey to finally being able to use the “W” word – writer– to describe herself. “It doesn’t matter if I claim the word writer, because I am,” she said. “At the end of the day, I get to say: I wrote that.”
Humanitas Executive Director Cathleen Young also got political in her introduction to the evening, calling this year’s finalists “the quiet rebellion” in a United States where a man “can assault a woman, brag about it, and be elected to the highest office in the land.”
Throughout the evening, emceed by David Hudgins, winners and honorees were celebrated for bringing injustice, marginalized communities and taboo topics into the light.
Writer Doug Atchison, Independent Feature winner for Brian Banks, thanked Humanitas for awarding the prize to a film that has not yet been released (it’s due out Aug. 9). The film is based on the real-life story of Banks, who was imprisoned at age 16 for six years for a crime he did not commit. A predictable standing O took place when Atchison brought Banks up onstage.
Bank said he had watched Atchison’s film Akeelah and the Bee in his small cell in prison and marveled that, years later, his first connection with the writer had come full circle. He added that he hoped Brian Banks would “challenge the world to be a better place.”
In a lighter moment, the winner of the David and Lynn Angell College Comedy Fellowship, Adam Lujan of NYU, accepted his award by saying: “None of you know who I am,” then spelled his name and suggested the audience follow him on Instagram. He also mentioned that he needs an apartment, and a job, adding: “I love coffee. I love getting coffee.”
ALEXA & KATIE, “Winter Formal, Part 2” Written by Matthew Carlson
STOLEN DAUGHTERS: KIDNAPPED BY BOKO HARAM Written and Produced by Karen Edwards, Directed by Gemma Atwal
The David and Lynn Angell College Comedy Fellowship
FERNANDO – Adam Lujan (NYU)
The Carol Mendelsohn College Drama Fellowship
RUE PIGALLE – Jessica Shields (Columbia University)
INDEPENDENT FEATURE FILM
BRIAN BANKS Written by Doug Atchison
DRAMA FEATURE FILM
ON THE BASIS OF SEX Written by Daniel Stiepleman
COMEDY FEATURE FILM
LOVE, SIMON Screenplay by Elizabeth Berger & Isaac Aptaker, Based on the Novel Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
FAMILY FEATURE FILM
MARY POPPINS RETURNS Screenplay by David Magee, Screen Story by David Magee & Rob Marshall & John DeLuca, Based upon the Mary Poppins stories by P.L. Travers
GOD FRIENDED ME, “Pilot” Written by Steven Lilien & Bryan Wynbrandt
30-MINUTE COMEDY (TWO WINNERS)
DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, “Volume 2: Chapter VIII” Written by Jack Moore
THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL, “Mid-way to Mid-town” Written and Directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino