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‘Brilliant film’ on young people fighting racism wins the Grand Prix 2012 Japan Prize

A documentary about young people uniting to fight racism in America has won the top accolade in the 2012 Japan Prize for educational programs around the world.

The program American Experience: Freedom Riders from the WGBH Educational Foundation (PBS) in the United States takes a look back at 1961 when twelve black and white youths seeking to end racial discrimination boarded a long-distance bus headed for the southern states of the US.

The producers explained that the Freedom Riders, as they were called, faced numerous obstacles, including attacks from white supremacists and arrests by local police for violating state laws. The program takes a new look at those young people, whose actions helped spur the American civil rights movement.

In awarding it the Japan Prize Grand Prix, the judges said: “This brilliant film, which highlights the students’ commitment to non-violent activism, will be an inspiration to youth everywhere.”

In the Preschool Category, the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Prize went to Found One! by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK), described as an educational variety show for ages 4-5, designed to gently push small children towards personal growth.

The winner of the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Prize in the Primary Category was another American program, Teaching Fractions through Gameplay by the University of Washington Center for Game Science, while the Youth Category Minister of Foreign Affairs Prize went to Truth Lies: Order by Channel Encuentro of Argentina, in which a philosopher shopping in a supermarket reflects upon chaos and why we need order.

A French program by Camera Lucida Productions won the Continuing Education Category (The Governor of Tokyo Prize) for Chernobyl: A natural history? about the consequences of the 1986 nuclear disaster in Ukraine, while The Test Tube with David Suzuki by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) won the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Prize in the Innovative Media Category. The NFB also won the UNICEF Prize for Private Eyes, a story about a blind boy in which the filmmakers tried to “visualise the world the visually impaired live in, to deepen children’s understanding and eliminate prejudice regarding disabilities”.

The Special Maeda Prize went to The Light Bulb Conspiracy by Media 3.14 of Spain, which looked at planned obsolescence and waste. The Japan Foundation President’s Prize was won by KCET in America for Departures, a “trans-media experience of the cultural history of the Los Angeles neighbourhoods”.

A complete list of winners can be found here.