First Annual Hitchens Prize Honors Alex Gibney
Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney accepted the first annual Hitchens Prize on November 16, at an event held in New York City. In attendance were the Prize selection committee of author Christopher Buckley, Vanity Fair publisher Graydon Carter, and DVRF President Dennis Ross. Among others attending were Carol Blue, Hitchens' widow, and novelist Martin Amis, his closest friend.
Explaining the Prize's origin, Ross stressed the importance of Hitchens' "long defense of human reason, whatever its limitations, as our best hold on truth, our best response to belief systems which close the mind, repress dissent, and too often migrate towards violence." He added that Gibney was an exceedingly worthy recipient, given his long, distinguished history of documentary filmmaking and the probing, challenging quality of his work.
Actual presentation of the award was made by Amis, who pointed to its added significance in light of the tragic events in Paris and Hitchens' own history of challenging radical elements within Islam. Noting that Hitchens and Gibney shared the same anti-authoritarian instincts, he added that there was something inimitable about Hitchens as a polemicist and thinker: "He was loved by his readers. The reader doesn't love common sense, it loves to see an intellectual battle revealed on the page, and that's what Christopher embodied."
In accepting the Prize, Gibney stated that he was honored to be the first recipient, particularly as he had known Hitchens for many years. He recalled Hitchens' honesty and courage in their work together on an early project and especially in his writing about death and the disease that ultimately took his life. He also noted the relevance of the prize and attached monetary award in helping a freelance artist such as himself to remain independent.
Links to the speeches from the Prize ceremony can be found below.