Announcing the Recipients of the 2023 Better Angels Lavine Fellowship

JANUARY 31, 2023: Today, The Better Angels Society announced the recipients of this year’s Better Angels Lavine Fellowship, a component of The Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film, which provides funding to works in progress telling America’s diverse stories. The films were selected from the pool of applicants to the 2022 Prize for Film that demonstrate significant potential. Each will receive mentorship, guidance, and advice from a panel of expert filmmakers as they work to advance their films.

The recipients are THE CORKY LEE STORY (dir. by Jennifer Takaki), SECOND GROWTH (dir. by Robert Carpenter), NEW WAVE (dir. by Elizabeth Ai), REMEMBERING WOODBINE (dir. by Patrick Longstreth), and 15th PARISH (dir. by Ben DiGiacomo).

“Documentary filmmakers are telling stories that are changing our understanding of the past,” said Ken Burns. “Now more than ever these stories, rooted in rigorous research and reporting, help us understand a complicated past.  They also have broadened our understanding of our diverse past and shine a light on the world we live in today. I am very grateful to Jonathan and Jeannie Lavine and The Better Angels Society for the work they’ve done to support filmmaking overall and especially to the work of new and emerging filmmakers from diverse backgrounds.  We need their vision and their stories to bring our history to life.” 

“Supporting filmmakers who are telling our nation’s stories and preserving them for future generations are at the heart of why this work is so important,” said Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine, who provided the funding to The Better Angels Society to endow this fellowship through the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation. “We look for filmmakers who are sharing compelling historical stories that are grounded in research and have the power to educate and inspire. This fellowship opens up resources and brings a community of expert filmmakers to those promising applicants of the Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film.” Jeannie Lavine has served on several national boards including The Better Angels Society’s Board of Directors. Jonathan Lavine is the Co-Managing Partner of Bain Capital, a Co-Chair of the Trustees of Columbia University, and Chair Emeritus of City Year.

PHOTOGRAPHIC JUSTICE: THE CORKY LEE STORY: Using his camera as a “weapon against injustice,” Chinese American photographer Corky Lee brought art and politics together through decades of documentation of the Asian American experience. From Lunar New Year to street protests, Pakistani Independence Day to Diwali, Lee’s photographs empowered generations of AAPI pride. Filmmaker Jennifer Takaki’s unprecedented access reveals the triumphs and tragedies of the man behind the camera. Directed by Jennifer Takaki.

SECOND GROWTH: Lacrosse is an ancient, Indigenous pastime, played on North American shores long before the first settlers arrived. In the late 1800s, colonists appropriated the game and turned it into modern lacrosse, which has become a major contemporary sport. Second Growth tells the story of the Indigenous lacrosse journey to regain agency in modern lacrosse and use the modern platform as the foundation of a larger cultural movement. Directed by Robert Carpenter.

NEW WAVE: Mile-high hair. Synthesized music. Underground parties. The “Vietnamese new wave” scene of 1980s California was the catalyst to healing a generation of refugees in limbo. NEW WAVE is the coming-of-age story about trailblazers who pioneered a raucous music scene and inspired their community to rebuild in the wake of war. Directed by Elizabeth Ai.

REMEMBERING WOODBINE: In 1971 an explosion at the Thiokol Chemical Plant in Woodbine, Georgia took the lives of 29 workers, predominantly Black women. The explosion was one of the worst industrial disasters in U.S. history, and it was caused by the U.S. government’s misclassification of material being used to make trip flares for the Vietnam War. Interviews with survivors, relatives, and first responders retrace the events of that day and their lasting effects on the community. Directed by Patrick Longstreth.

15th PARISH: The story of New York City’s dancehall culture told by its legendary participants, from early pioneers to present day megastars Shaggy and Sean Paul. 15th Parish creates a coherent account of dancehall as a New York immigrant evolution of shared Jamaican identity and cultural pride. Directed by Ben DiGiacomo.

“Making a documentary takes a village,” said Courtney Chapin, Executive Director of The Better Angels Society. “The Better Angels Society connects fellows with expert filmmakers to provide support as they work on their films. These promising filmmakers have demonstrated the potential for excellence in telling stories that focus on America’s diversity and we’re proud to help on their journey.”

The fellowship provides individualized support to fellows, such as advice on film cuts, post-production budgeting, copyright and trademark advice, distribution and outreach strategies, music licensing, strategic partnerships, and the use of social media. The fellowship also organizes group workshops with presentations from experts and an opportunity for the fellows to ask questions and learn from one another as well as the expert advisers.

FANNIE LOU HAMER’S AMERICA (directed by Joy Elaine Davenport) premiered on the 10th season of PBS’s America ReFramed last year after receiving critical support and advice from expert advisors provided through the Better Angels Lavine Fellowship.

All applicants to the Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film are automatically considered for the Better Angels Lavine Fellowship. For more information about the The Better Angels Lavine Fellowship, visit