Humanitas Prize Awards: ‘Jojo Rabbit’, ‘When They See Us’, ‘Veep’ Among Winners

By Bruce Haring, Patrick Hipes

Taika Waititi and Roman Griffin Davis in 'Jojo Rabbit'
Fox Searchlight

The 45th annual Humanitas Prizes honoring film and television writers whose work inspires compassion, hope, and understanding in the human family, were handed out Friday night at the Beverly Hilton.

Motion picture winners included Searchlight Pictures’ Jojo Rabbit, the Taika Waititi written and directed war satire based on the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens. It is also up for an Oscar in the Adapted Screenplay category among six nominations including Best Picture.

The organization also announced that Emmy Award-winning writer-producer Jenny Bicks has been named the organization’s new president, succeeding Ali LeRoi, who has served in the role since 2013.

Other film winners included Sony’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah Harpster, inspired by Tom Junod’s Esquire article “Can You Say… Hero?”, and Lulu Wang for A24’s The Farewell. Disney’s Frozen 2 won the family film prize.

This year, Humanitas introduced two new categories: Limited Series, TV Movie or Special and Short Film, to reflect the increased significance of those forms in the digital media landscape. Ava DuVernay, who during the ceremony received the Humanitas Voice for Change Award, won the Limited Series for Netflix’s When They See Us.

Other TV winners included Yahlin Chang in Drama Teleplay for Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, based on Margaret Atwood novel, and Veep‘s Alex Gregory & Peter Huyck for Comedy Teleplay.

Also tonight, Greg Berlanti received the Kieser Award, a lifetime achievement award for work that not only entertains but also enriches the viewing public. It is named after Humanitas founder Fr. Ellwood “Bud” Kieser. Television writer-producer Norman Lear was presented the inaugural Norman Lear Award. This new award honors groundbreaking writing that holds up a mirror to society and inspires viewers to accept personal responsibility and take action for positive change.

“It is an honor and a privilege to help recognize the work of this extremely gifted group of writers, who have each in their own unique way entertained, enlightened and challenged us in the past year,” said LeRoi, who will remain on the organization’s board of directors. “I look forward to working with incoming president Jenny Bicks, my fellow board members, our advisory council and staff to continue the important work of supporting excellence in writing.”

All winners, except for those in the Independent Feature Film, Short Film, College Fellowship, and New Voices categories, designate a nonprofit of their choice to receive prize money. A total of $95,000 was awarded to Humanitas Prize winners.  Among the recipient organizations are: BLOC – Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, Planned Parenthood, Common Goal, and Alight. Past recipients have included Young Storytellers, The Writers Guild Foundation, Rosie’s Theater Kids, Film2Future, Hedgebrook, ARC, The Remix Project, and WriteGirl, among others.

Since its inception in 1974, the Humanitas Prize has awarded over $4 million to more than 360 TV and motion picture writers whose work examines what it means to be a fully realized human being in a world struggling with racism, terrorism, sexism, ageism, anti-Semitism, political polarization, religious fanaticism, extreme poverty, violence and unemployment.


Among other winners Friday, the David and Lynn Angell College Comedy Fellowship went to Sheridan Watson of USC for Lady Lazarus, winning a $20,000 prize. The Carol Mendelsohn College Drama Fellowship was won by King Lu from Columbia University for From June to July. He also gets $20,000 in prize money.

Six Humanitas New Voices winners were also honored at the event. Those winning writers receive mentorship and will be awarded $7,500 in prize money.

Here’s the full list of winners:

Limited Series, TV Movie or Special

“Part 4” Teleplay by Ava DuVernay & Michael Starrbury; story by Ava DuVernay

Drama Teleplay

“Useful” Written by Yahlin Chang; based on the novel by Margaret Atwood

Comedy Teleplay

VEEP “South Carolina”
Written By Alex Gregory & Peter Huyck

Drama Feature Film

Written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah Harpster; inspired by the article “Can You Say… Hero?” by Tom Junod

Family Feature Film

Story by Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, Marc E. Smith, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez; Screenplay by Jennifer Lee

Independent Feature

Written by Michael Armbruster

Comedy or Musical Feature Film

Written by Lulu Wang

Screenplay by Taika Waititi; Based on the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens

Children’s Teleplay

ELENA OF AVALOR “Changing of the Guard”
Written by Kate Kondell

Short Film

Written by Rosana Sullivan


Directed by James Erskine, Written by John Carlin

The David and Lynn Angell College Comedy Fellowship

Sheridan Watson (USC)

The Carol Mendelsohn College Drama Fellowship

King Lu (Columbia)

New Voices

Robert Axelrod, TUCKED
Christina Brosman, SACRIFICIAL
Jeanine Daniels, CONVOLUTED
Obiageli Odimegwu, THE SHOW
Roniel Tessler, BLUE MOON

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