The Ambassador of Hope Award

The Christopher D. Smithers Foundation’s “Ambassador of Hope Award” was created in the framework of the traditional Prize awarded by the International Council of Film and Television at UNCESCO (IFTC-UNESCO). This Award is given by the Smithers Foundation to raise awareness about the issues related to alcohol abuse.Aware that alcoholism, as indicated by the World Health Organization, constitutes one of the major health related issues at the global level and a growing problem at an alarming rate mainly among young people, the Italian Committee of the IFTC-UNESCO, OCCAM and the Smithers Foundation launched, on the occasion of the Venice Film Festival, an Award given to a movie shown at the Festival that best represents this issue.In 2008 the Jury, composed of Stella Belessi, Jasmina Bojic, Vittorio Giacci, Peirpaolo Saporito and Adele Smithers, gave the first Ambassador of Hope Award to the movie:



Written and directed by Sylvie Verheyde


The official Award presentation was held on March 12, 2009 at the Walter Reade Theater (Lincoln Center) in New York City.

With the following motivation: for bringing public awareness on the fact that alcoholism is a respectable, treatable disease and for advancing the global message of hope and recovery. The history of Stella, notwithstanding the fascination for alcohol that a certain environment produces on younger generations can, through friendship and education, be overcome to grow up and fully discover the beauties of life.

At the 65th Venice Film Festival in 2009 the Jury, composed of Pierpaolo Saporito, Gabriel Griffin Hall, Jasmina Bojic, Lola Poggi Goujon, Stella Belessi and Adele Smithers decided to give the Ambassador of Hope Award to the movie:



Starring Nicolas Cage
Produced by Edward R. Pressman
Written by William Finkelstein


The Award presentation was held at the National Arts Club on March 19, 2010.

With the following motivation: a powerful narration that demonstrates that the possibility of recovery from cocaine, heroin and alcohol abuse exists with thanks to the support and guidance of the family and community.

On September 10, 2010 the winner of the Smithers’ Award was announced at the Euro Mediterranean Conference at Ca Giustinian, the historic seat of the Biennvale di Venezia.  The jury composed of Adele Smithers, Thomas Croci, Stacia Murphy, Richard Flamburis and Pierpaolo Saporito selected to give the Ambassador of Hope Award to the film,


Svinalangorna (Beyond)

By Pernilla Augus

For the classic and realistic depiction from the heart of an alcoholic family and for the subtle intensity of the acting, which clearly describes how alcoholism can affect innocent victims and destroy families.  A ceremony was held on March 9, 2011 at the Scandinavia House in New York City.

At the Venice Film Festival in September 2011, the Ambassador of Hope Award was presented to:



By Sono Sion

For having showed, depicting the life of Sumida, a young Japanese teenager, that the consequences of the recent earthquake that hit Japan are at least as dire as those of the abuses of his alcohol addicted father.  The destructions of the tsunami only mirror those at the moral and social level that alcohol abuse causes within families:  Sumida’s hope for an “ordinary life” are shared by the millions in his same condition, in the Eastern, Western and Southern worlds alike.

In 2012, the jury composed of Pierpaolo Saporito, Gabriel Griffin Hall, Jasmina Bojic and Stella Belessi gave the Award to:


Low Tide

By Roberto Minervini

With the following motivation:  for having portrayed how alcohol abuse in mothers effect their children.  In this almost totally silent movie, where words are uttered just for immediate needs, a 12-year old kid’s life is totally absorbed by taking care his alcohol abusing mother.  They live together but she hardly sees her son, unless she is in need.  Only when he tries to escape, in the most desperate way, from a life of abuse, frustration and lack of love, his mother finally opens her eyes.


In 2013, the jury composed of Pierpaola Saporito, Gabriel Griffin Hall and Jasmina Bojic, gave the Ambassador of Hope Award to:


By David Gordon Green

For the strong message this film conveys, illustrating the perverse relationship between poverty and alcohol that leads to a moral degradation erupting in violence.  Set in the Mississippi backwoods of the present where a cowboy mentality still prevails, the film presents situations in which the abuse of alcohol tips the scale of the difficult equilibrium between good and bad.

At the Venice Film Festival in 2016, the jury composed of Jasmina Boijc, Pierpaola Saporito, Gabriel Griffin-Hall and Eliana Bantchev chose:


(The Bleeder – Original Title)
By Philippe Falardeau

For the expressive force with which this biopic portrays a fighter whose great physical strength and ability to take blows in the ring, does not at first translate into the ability to cope with both success and subsequent failure in life, resulting in his succumbing to alcohol and drugs, from which eventually he finds the strength in himself to emerge becoming an example to be held up to younger generations.

At the Venice Film Festival in 2017, the jury composed of Christopher B. Smithers, Nikki Smithers, Pierpaolo Saporito, Jasmina Bojic, Gabriel Griffin-Hall, Jerry Schmetterer and Michael F. Vecchione chose:


The Shape of Water

Directed by Guillermo Del Toro

“A story of differing attitudes to diversity:  that of ignorance resulting in oppression and that of compassion and comprehension.  A reptile-like creature is stigmatized by researchers because of his appearance, on the assumption that he is no better than a swamp animal.  Thanks to the compassion and understanding of a humble cleaner, he is able to demonstrate that he is more evolved than his captors.  He proves his intelligence, his ability to heal and his capacity for human emotion.”

The International Council for Film, Television and Audiovisual Communication (ICFT), Paris, announced that they concede the UNESCO Fellini Medal to:

The Smithers Foundation Award 2018

The Christopher D. Smithers Foundation’s Adele Smithers Award is presented annually to a movie present at the Venice Film Festival that best sheds light on the struggle for social justice and the acceptance of the beliefs, differences and customs of others.

The jury composed of Christopher Smithers, Pierpaolo Saporito and Gabriel Griffin-Hall announced at the Venice Film Festival seat on September 8 that The Smithers Foundation’s 2018 Award recipient was:

A Star is Born

by Bradley Cooper

With the following motivation,

In A Star is Born, the director Cooper realizes a musical drama exalting the talent of Lady Gaga in an outstanding performance, where, using popular narration with sophisticated techniques that imply a coral fusion of genres, the director/actor presents the theme of alcohol and drug abuse in all its harsh reality.

The jury decided to attribute a special mention to:

The Mountain

by Rick Alverson

Exemplar of the mental health treatment afflicting suffers until the advent of the new pharmacological discoveries; in which the director illustrates well how science must take into account the human condition.

At the 76th Mostra di Arte Cinematografica of Venice, the jury composed of Nikki Smithers, Brinkley Smithers, Pierpaolo Saporito, Vittorio Giacci and Gabriel Griffin-Hall, announced The Christopher D. Smithers Foundation’s 2019 Award recipient would be:


by Shannon Murphy

With the following motivation,

The movie shows with sensitivity the possibility to look differently at those whose abuse of drugs and their willingness to look for redemption for those they love.  Moreover, the movie writer decides to tell a story about a severe and widely spread problem nowadays concluding with a positive message


LIFE OF CRIME 1984-2020

Directed by Jon Alpert

The winner of the 10th edition, 2021, was announced during a press conference on Friday, September 10, 2021 at the Italian Pavilion, Excelsior-Lido, Venice.

This is the original crime reality film-documentary. Over a 36-year period, it follows Rob, Freddie, and Deliris on a relentless ride through the streets and prisons of Newark, New Jersey’s largest city. This is not filtered. You experience being there…and will experience the violence, pain, love, courage, redemption, and heroism of the desperate fight to survive the deadliest enemy ever to attack America. A relentless ride through the streets and prisons of Newark and a desperate fight to survive the deadliest enemy ever to attack America: Drugs.
Motivation: The film shows how drug addiction is a devious and constant battle, one causing the most deaths in America today. The director follows the protagonists’ lives over 36 years; during many of these they have constant relapses, they are arrested, and they desperately try to conquer heroin addiction. Hope is personified by Deliris Velazquez; after 15 years of heroin addiction, she is finally able to stay clean for more than 16 years and is awarded “Newark Citizen of the Year” for her constant awareness of drug addiction and her concrete help provided to her neighborhood. She dies in 2020; during the lockdown she loses her points of reference and is killed by the last fatal dose of $5 worth of heroin.
In the words of Director, Jon Alpert: “Deliris was a warrior, a symbol of strength and courage for her neighbors and she deserves to be remembered for this. Between 1984 and 2020, conventional wars killed 1.5 million Americans, drugs killed more than 5 million. What are we waiting for in order to fight America’s real enemy?”


by Laura Poitras

Smithers Foundation “Ambassador of Hope” 2022 at the 79th Venice International Film Festival
The jury, composed by Nikki Smithers, President of Smithers Foundation and President of the Jury, Brinkley Smithers, Smithers Foundation, Pierpaolo Saporito, President of OCCAM and President a.i of CICT ICFT UNESCO, Giacomo Mazzone, Secretary General EUROVISIONI, Alessandro Mandelli, founder of Serially, Maria Chiara Scipioni, Junior Delegate, is honored to announce that the winner of the 12th “Ambassador of Hope” Award at the 79th Venice International Film Festival is ALL THE BEAUTY AND THE BLOODSHELL by Laura Poitras

With the following motivation:
The documentary All the Beauty and the Bloodshell by Laura Poitras is a masterpiece that touches upon many social and current issues by presenting rare footage and intimate interviews that provide insights into the life and work of renowned photographer and activist Nan Goldin. As one of the most prestigious contemporary photographers, known for her fervent adherence to important causes and themes, including sexuality and addiction – especially in her series The Ballad of Sexual Dependency documenting the queer communities of New York in the 70s and 80s – All the Beauty and the Bloodshed retraces Goldin’s family and professional vicissitudes and the tortuous journey that led her to addiction to oxycodone and eventually to the establishment of the defense group P.A.I.N (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now). With this group, Goldin advocates – and has successfully done so – for museums and other art institutions to stop collaborating with the Sackler family, whose business is responsible for the sales of those opioid painkillers.
“My greatest pride is to have brought to its knees a family of billionaires in a world where billionaires can count on a different justice from people like us and their impunity is total in the United States. And, for now, we’ve shot one down.” – Nan Goldin

The documentary not only well describes Goldin’s fight against the Sackler’s family, but most importantly gives an insight into the economic, social and institutional parallels between the HIV/AIDS crisis and the current opioid crisis in the country as well as other important social fights for homosexuality rights and rights to sexual freedom. In doing that, it highlights how social crises do not exist in a single context, but rather it is necessary to capture the relationships between communities in order to probe their depths.

Copyright Smithers