MPAC Honors TLC, ‘Kinyarwanda’ & ‘Saving Face’ at Media Awards on Sunday
Los Angeles, CA: Before a full house on Sunday, the Muslim Public Affairs Council presented its 21 st Annual Media Awards to TLC, “Kinyarwanda” and “Saving Face” for their Voices of Courage and Conscience, says an MPAC Press Release.
In an evening filled with celebration and emotional moments, each of the honorees thanked Muslim Americans for their support and shared the inspiration behind their projects. The crowd was brought to its feet several times, as each honoree’s work was celebrated for the mark it made in raising public awareness about an issue of social justice.
To a joyous standing ovation, the first award of the night was given to Amy Winter, General Manager of TLC, and Alon Ornstein, Vice President of Production and Development of TLC, for airing the first reality TV show about Muslim Americans. “All-American Muslim” that followed the lives of five Lebanese families in Dearborn. Under Winter’s guidance, TLC stood by the show despite bigoted attacks from anti-Muslim groups who sought to have the series canceled. “We did not set out to make a show about politics or religion,” Ornstein said. “This was a show about family, about Americans. If we piqued more curiosity, started more conversations, we couldn’t be more privileged and honored to be a part of that.”
The second award was given to “Kinyarwanda” executive producer, Ishmael Ntihabose, and writer, director and producer, Alrick Brown, for their powerful film about Rwandans cooperating to save lives. Based on true events, this powerful Sundance Film Festival winner tells the story of Muslim Rwandans who opened their mosques to Christians, Hutus and Tutsis during the horrific Rwandan genocide in the 1990s.
Ntihabose said the film was inspired by the way that Rwanda’s tiny Muslim population (1.5 percent of the total population) tried to protect their brothers and sisters to serve the 19 percent of Rwandans who are Christian. Ntihabose also conveyed a message of gratitude from the Mufti of Rwanda, Sheikh Saleh Habimana, for honoring this project and their cause.
“I am not Muslim, and I am not African, but this is the most important award we have received because it focuses on the message of the film as opposed to the art,” Brown said in his acceptance speech. “I know the art is being acknowledged, but we made this for Muslims. [Ishmael Ntihabose] called me and said he wanted to make a film about a positive portrayal of Muslims and Islam. MPAC is the pinnacle of our awards journey. As much as I am a filmmaker, I am an activist. Dr. King said, ‘When there is injustice anywhere it is a threat to justice everywhere.’ My work is about giving a face and a voice to the voiceless.” Actor and 2003 Media Award recipient Mike Farrell, the legendary star of “M*A*S*H,” served as the evening’s emcee and described how each of the honorees touched our hearts and is leading the cause in changing the world.
The final award of the evening was given to Daniel Junge, director of the 2012 Academy Award-winning film “Saving Face,” and Dr. Mohammad Jawad, the humanitarian featured in the documentary, who shared his inspiring story of supporting the resilience of Pakistani women who have survived acid burn attacks at the hands of their own family members. “Change can only happen when there is cross-cultural collaboration,” Junge said, in his acceptance speech delivered live over Skype. “I would be remiss to say that though Sharmeen and I are honored to accept this award, the real heroes are the change-makers of the film like Dr. Jawad,
“I'm beginning to realize how powerful and enlightened and empowered MPAC is. What free thinkers there are here, which is really what Islam is about, to take us away from the darkness. I am proud to be part of MPAC giving a positive face to Muslims.”
MPAC Senior Adviser Dr. Maher Hathout closed the event by summing up the emotions in the room and reminding the audience about the power of art.
In an effort to promote positive and accurate portrayals of Islam and Muslims, MPAC 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.