LOS ANGELES, July 11 (UPI) -- "Antwone Fisher," the story of a sailor who learns to displace intense anger and cynicism with love and trust, won the top feature film award Thursday as the 2003 Humanitas Prizes were presented in Los Angeles.
The story, based on the life of writer Antwone Fisher, was previously nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award. Fisher, who sold the screenplay while he was working as a security guard at the Sony Pictures lot in Los Angeles, based the story on his own personal struggle with anger.
"I hoped that all that I had been ashamed of all my life would have meaning for other people," Fisher said in his acceptance speech Thursday.
Speaking to an audience made up mostly of movie and TV writers, Fisher said he wrote 41 drafts of "Antwone Fisher" as part of a screenwriting course. The Humanitas Prize for best feature film was worth $25,000 this year.
The prize was established in 1974 by the late Paulist priest Ellwood "Bud" Kieser "to encourage, stimulate and sustain writers in their humanizing task and to give them the recognition they deserve." Although it doesn't get as much attention as the Oscars or the Emmys, the Humanitas Prize has become one of the most sought after honors in Hollywood for writers, producers, networks and studios.
"This is a very important award in the writing community," said Humanitas Prize Executive Director Chris Donahue. "This award is judged by writers for other writers."
The other feature film nominees were "About a Boy" by Peter Hedges and Chris Weitz & Paul Weitz, and "The Pianist," by Ronald Harwood. Both were previously nominated for the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. "The Pianist" won.
The Humanitas Prize winner in the Sundance Feature Film Category -- carrying a prize of $10,000 -- was "Whale Rider," by Niki Caro. The movie, which has become an international art-house hit, is based on Witi Ihimaera's novel about a girl who tries to live up to tradition in New Zealand -- even as she bucks it by taking her place in a traditionally male ritual.
"Our America" -- a Showtime movie based on the book "Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago" by LeAlan Jones, Lloyd Newman and David Isay -- won in the 90 Minute Category. The story of two Chicago teenagers who use their opportunity to report for NPR to tell the truth about the death of a small child in a public housing project earned a WGA Award for writer Gordon Rayfield.
David E. Kelley, whose work has become a Humanitas Prize favorite over the years, won in the 60 Minute Category for an episode of the ABC legal drama "The Practice." The winning episode, "Final Judgment," is the story of a legal fight to save the life of an insane woman who is about to be executed.
In the 30 Minute Category, Fox's "The Bernie Mac Show" won for "Sweet Home Chicago Part II" -- the second episode in a two-part series about a return to the central character's hometown for a funeral.
"A Ring of Endless Light" -- a Disney Channel show about a teen who discovers she can communicate with dolphins -- won in the Children's Live Action Category. "Jimmy" -- an episode of The WB's "Static Shock" about gun violence among young people -- won in the Children's Animation Category.
Veteran Hollywood writer-producer Fay Kanin received the Kieser Award, named for Father Kieser, who died in 2001.
"She cares with a passion about moral values," said Oscar-nominated director Arthur Hiller, who presented the award to Kanin. "And not just in the arts."
In her acceptance speech, Kanin as much as called writing an act of faith.
"How can I think that anything I write can make a difference?" she said, paraphrasing a question that she said writers constantly struggle with. "Is that a little crazy?"
Kanin -- who was nominated for a screenwriting Oscar for the 1958 Clark Gable-Doris Day romantic comedy "Teacher's Pet" -- thanked the Humanitas Prize for "bringing writers out of the lonely anonymity in which they labor."