'Unbroken' and 'Heaven Is for Real' Take Top Honors at Faith-Friendly Awards Gala

Heaven Is for Real and Unbroken took top prizes at an event Friday that rewards movies based not only on their entertainment and artistic quality but also their uplifting messaging and Bible-honoring content.

Unbroken, a film about World War II prisoner Louis Zamperini that was directed by Angelina Jolie, was deemed the best film of 2014 for mature audiences while Heaven Is for Real, about a young boy who claims to have visited heaven, was named the best movie for families.

Stevie Wonder appeared with several other artists in a musical tribute to gospel singer Andrae Crouch, who died in January.

Dubbed the 23rd annual Movieguide Faith & Values Awards Gala, the event was held at the Universal Hilton Hotel in Universal City and drew executives from most major — and lots of minor — studios. The event was recorded and will be broadcast on ReelzChannel on Feb. 21 and again two days later.

Clips from dozens of family-friendly and faith-based movies were shown at Friday's ceremony, with the most notable snubs of the evening being the total absence of Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings, two movies based on the Bible that were also controversial in some circles for being insufficiently faithful to the source material.

Movieguide, a journal that rates movies based on a myriad of criteria, is a product of Good News Communications, founded by Dr. Ted Baehr in 1978. Seven years later he launched the nonprofit Christian Film & Television Commission, as well Movieguide to help parents identify faith-friendly entertainment.

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Unlike the Oscars and most similar affairs, the Faith & Values Awards chooses not only a winner in its top two categories but also nine runners-up that receive trophies.

In the "family" category, the nine additional movies were: Son of God, God's Not Dead, Big Hero 6, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Dolphin Tale 2, Penguins of Madagascar, Bears, Muppets Most Wanted and Planes: Fire and Rescue.

In the "mature" category, the nine other movies were: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Giver, The Good Lie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies; The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Divergent and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Also unlike more mainstream awards shows in Hollywood, the Faith & Values Awards doles out a few cash prizes, supported by a grant from the Templeton Foundation. This year, its $100,000 Epiphany Prize for movies went to God's Not Dead and its $100,000 Epiphany Prize for television went to Love Finds You in Sugarcreek.

There's also a Faith & Freedom Award for movies and television, with the former going to The Giver and the latter to The Gabby Douglas Story. For actors, a Grace award for movies went to Diogo Morgado, who played Jesus in Son of God while one for television went to Imani Hakim, who played Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas in The Gabby Douglas Story.

Hosting the festivities on Friday was Bill Engvall of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. Presenters included actor Corbin Bernsen, Duck Dynasty personalities Sadie and Korie Robertson and, as has been the case for a few years, several Disney Channel stars: Madison Pettis (Jake and the Never Land Pirates),??Shane Harper (Good Luck Charlie); Olivia Holt (Kickin' It),??Austin North (I Didn't Do it) and Karan Brar (Jessie).

One of the event's traditions is that the attendees, who included executives from Disney, DreamWorks Animation, Universal, Warner Bros., Paramount, Fox, Sony, Lionsgate and other studios, receive a copy of the Annual Report to the Entertainment Industry by Movieguide.

This year's report is more than 80 pages long and is packed with data designed to convince film and TV executives that faith and values are far more popular with audiences than are explicit sex, violence, profanity, atheism and other things the editors of Movieguide find objectionable.

The report analyzed 275 films released in 2014 and found that movies with "very strong Christian, redemptive worldviews following biblical principles and values" averaged $66.79 million at the domestic box office. Movies with "humanist/atheist worldviews" averaged only $1.98 million.

In the former category, obviously, are the movies that were nominated and received accolades Friday night, many of which represented some of the biggest franchises in movie history (Hunger Games, Marvel superheroes, The Hobbit).

In the latter category are such films as Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight ($10 million domestic box office); Roman Polanski's Venus in Fur ($342,000); Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac: Volume II ($327,000); the Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour ($2.5 million); and Terry Gilliam's The Zero Theorem ($258,000).

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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