LIBRARY OF CONGRESS LAVINE/KEN BURNS PRIZE FOR FILM

SUBMISSIONS FOR THE 2022 PRIZE OPEN ON FEBRUARY 22 AND CLOSE ON JUNE 1, 2022.

SUBMIT TO THE 2022 PRIZE

A National Award for History Documentary Filmmaking

Documentary films on issues of importance to our nation create space for us to have mutually informed conversations about our history. The documentary film medium is perhaps the most relevant and powerful means by which we can explore our history and ourselves. The lessons learned from our past inform and inspire our future.

Bringing this critical educational tool to as broad an American audience as possible is our goal.

This annual national prize, now in its fourth year, is designed to provide finishing funds, including outreach and marketing, for feature-length U.S. historical documentaries in the tradition of Ken Burns.

The establishment of the Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film reflects the critical role history documentary film plays today in educating Americans about the American story. The Prize is bestowed by Librarian Carla Hayden and filmmaker Ken Burns who will co-chair a national jury of esteemed scholars, filmmakers, and journalists. The Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film joins other awards bestowed by the Library of Congress including the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the Prize for American Fiction, and the Kluge Prize for the Study of Humanity.

The Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film is made possible through a generous donation by Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine. The Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation invests in philanthropic efforts directed at leveling the playing field for individuals and families. The Foundation supports organizations that strengthen society through education, research, innovation, public policy, direct service, and advocacy. As ever more Americans learn history watching historical documentary films, the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation makes possible this Library of Congress national prize with The Better Angels Society. The Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film will support the creation of exemplary films that live on as enduring educational assets for all Americans, enriching the democracy and informing our understanding of the American story.

Watch the 2021 Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film Virtual Ceremony here:

2022 PRIZE JURY

Dr. Carla Hayden – CHAIR

Dr. Annette Gordon-Reed

Sam Pollard

Dawn Porter

Sally Rosenthal

Dr. Claudio Saunt

2022 Honorary Committee

The Honorary Committee is a distinguished group of thought leaders drawn from all corners of the media and cultural landscape, united by a common interest in supporting work that highlights our country’s history through documentary film. The members of the Honorary Committee each have large and unique spheres of influence that help spread the mission of the Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film, making them a vital part of the Prize community. The members of the 2022 Honorary Committee represent a varied cross-section of our nation’s culture, including the written word, music, film, historiography, and news media.

RICHARD BLANCO

Richard Blanco is the fifth presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history—the youngest, first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. He is the author of the poetry collections Looking for the Gulf Motel, Directions to the Beach of the Dead, and City of a Hundred Fires; the poetry chapbooks Matters of the Sea, One Today, and Boston Strong; a children’s book of his inaugural poem, “One Today,” illustrated by Dav Pilkey; and Boundaries, a collaboration with photographer Jacob Hessler. His latest book of poems, How to Love a Country (Beacon Press, 2019), both interrogates the American narrative, past and present, and celebrates the still unkept promise of its ideals. 

PATRICIA CARDOSO

Patricia Cardoso is a Colombian-American director, writer, and producer, who has directed a wide range of acclaimed films and episodes for the screen. She was the first Latinx woman to receive a Sundance Audience Award and a Student Academy Award®.

RON CHERNOW

Ron Chernow is the prize-winning author of seven books and the recipient of the 2015 National Humanities Medal. His first book, The House of Morgan, won the National Book Award, Washington: A Life won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, and Alexander Hamilton was the inspiration for the Broadway musical.

CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY

Christopher John Farley is the author of five novels, including the young adult novel “Zero O’Clock,” and a number of nonfiction books including “Before the Legend: The Rise of Bob Marley” and the national bestseller “Aaliyah: More than a Woman,” which was adapted into a hit movie for Lifetime television. Farley co-wrote and co-edited the book “The Blues,” the companion volume to Martin Scorsese’s PBS documentary series. Farley served as the consulting producer for the Peabody-winning HBO documentary “Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown.” A graduate of Harvard, he has won a number of awards including an NAACP Image Award for his novel “Around Harvard Square.” Farley is a former music critic for Time magazine, a former senior editor for the Wall Street Journal and is currently an executive editor for Audible.

Claudrena Harold

Claudrena N. Harold is the Edward Stettinius Professor of History  at the University of Virginia. She is the author of three books, The Rise and Fall of the Garvey Movement in the Urban South, 1918–1942 (Routledge, 2007), New Negro Politics in the Jim Crow South (University of Georgia Press, 2016), and When Sunday Comes: Gospel Music in the Soul and Hip-Hop Eras (University of Illinois Press, 2020). She is co-editor of the essay collection,  Charlottesville 2017: The Legacy of Race and Inequity (University of Virginia Press, 2018). As a part of her ongoing work on the history of black student activism at UVA, she has written, produced, and co-directed with Kevin Everson nine short films: Sugarcoated Arsenic, Fastest Man in the State, 70 kg, U. Of Virginia, 1976, How Can We Ever Be Late, Black Bus Stop,  Hampton,  Pride, and We Demand.

Patricia de Stacy Harrison

The Honorable Patricia de Stacy Harrison is the longest-serving president and chief executive officer of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which serves as the steward of federal funding for more than 1,500 public radio and television stations and producers throughout the United States. Since she joined CPB in 2005, she has increased support for education and journalism and advanced public media in three major areas: Digital innovation and acceleration, Diversity of content, talent, and service, and Dialogue, focused on local community engagement and increased public-private partnerships.

MICHIKO KAKUTANI

Michiko Kakutani is an American literary critic and former chief book critic for The New York Times. Her awards include a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Kakutani initially worked as a reporter for The Washington Post, and then from 1977 to 1979 for Time magazine. In 1979, she joined The New York Times as a reporter.

PAULA KERGER

Paula Kerger is the president and chief executive officer of PBS, the nation’s largest non-commercial media organization with nearly 350 member stations throughout the country. Having joined PBS in March 2006, Kerger is the longest-serving president and CEO in PBS history.

WYNTON MARSALIS

Wynton Marsalis is an American virtuoso trumpeter, composer, teacher, and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. He has promoted classical and jazz music, often to young audiences. Marsalis has been awarded nine Grammy Awards and his Blood on the Fields was the first jazz composition to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music.

SOLEDAD O’BRIEN

American broadcast journalist and executive producer. Since 2016, O’Brien has been the host for Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien, a nationally syndicated weekly talk show produced by Hearst Television. She is chairwoman of Starfish Media Group, a multi-platform media production company and distributor that she founded in 2013.

SHARON ROCKEFELLER

Sharon Rockefeller has served the public broadcasting community for more than 40 years as a leader and policymaker. She has been president and CEO of WETA, Washington, D.C.’s flagship public television and radio stations, since 1989. She continues to guide WETA to outstanding accomplishments in broadcasting and production.

LUIS ANTONIO UBIÑAS

Luis Ubiñas has had a career spanning business, government and the nonprofit sector. He
has served as President of the Ford Foundation, a senior partner at McKinsey & Company
and an Obama-era appointee to both the Export-Import Bank and the International Trade
Commission. Over the last several years, he has been an investor, advisor and board
member. During the 2020 Presidential campaign Luis co-chaired the Biden economic policy
committee.

2021 Prize Winners

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 2021 LIBRARY OF CONGRESS LAVINE/KEN BURNS PRIZE FOR FILM WINNER: GRADUALLY, THEN SUDDENLY: THE BANKRUPTCY OF DETROIT, DIRECTED BY SAM KATZ AND JAMES MCGOVERN.

GRADUALLY, THEN SUDDENLY: THE BANKRUPTCY OF DETROIT

Directed by Sam Katz and James McGovern

Winner

Once heralded as the spirit of American manufacturing, music, and democracy, Detroit kicked its fiscal can down the road for decades plummeting into insolvency, culminating in the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. GRADUALLY, THEN SUDDENLY is the inside story of how a state-appointed Emergency Manager and the people of this iconic American city– confronting financial ruin–followed a treacherous path towards a new beginning.

FREE CHOL SOO LEE

Directed by Julie Ha and Eugene Yi

Runner-up

After a Korean immigrant is wrongly convicted of a 1973 San Francisco Chinatown gang murder, Asian Americans unite as never before to free Chol Soo Lee. A former street hustler becomes the symbol for a landmark movement. But once out, he self-destructs, threatening the movement’s legacy and the man himself.

THE PICTURE TAKER

Directed by Phil Bertelsen

Finalist

A million snaps of the shutter, six decades of history, Ernest Withers’ photos captured southern Black life and spread the news of civil rights.  They also appeared in FBI files, provided by informant ME-338-R:  Ernest Withers. DOUBLE EXPOSURE unravels his mystery and motives, raising questions about power and patriotism in very troubled times.

EXPOSING MUYBRIDGE

Directed by Marc Shaffer

Finalist

Brilliant, ambitious and mischievous, the 19th-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge’s breakthrough photographs of running horses set the course for the development of cinema and transformed the camera into a machine of unmatched perception and persuasion. But hiding in Muybridge’s work are clues that provoke an enduring question: Can we believe what we see in a photograph?

THE FIVE DEMANDS

Directed by Greta Schiller

Finalist

THE FIVE DEMANDS tells the story of the 1969 student strike at the City College of New York that changed the face of higher education. While the late Sixties are known as an era of student activism, largely by white, middle-class students against the war in Vietnam, these Black and Puerto Rican students were at the vanguard of a little-known national Black student movement that transformed the culture, mission, and curriculum of higher education.

BONNIE BLUE: JAMES COTTON’S LIFE IN THE BLUES

Directed by Bestor Cram

Finalist

Born in 1935 on Bonnie Blue plantation in Tunica, Mississippi, apprenticing with Sonny Boy Williamson II and Howlin’ Wolf, and schooled by Muddy Waters, James ‘Super Harp’ Cotton became a mentor to harp players around the globe as he brought the delta blues into mainstream rock ‘n roll. Cotton’s music made history; his musical voice was unique, and the blues were never the same.

2020 Prize Winners

HOLD YOUR FIRE

Winner

Directed by Stefan Forbes

In 1973, four young men stealing guns for self-defense were tragically mistaken by the NYPD for violent revolutionaries. A gunfight ensued and a police officer was killed. Despite the NYPD’s policy of deadly force, Dr. Harvey Schlossberg managed to resolve the conflict peacefully and invent modern hostage negotiation.

CURED

Runner Up

Directed by Patrick Sammon & Bennett Singer

Until 1973, doctors automatically classified every gay man and lesbian as mentally ill. CURED tells the David-versus-Goliath story of the activists who challenged this diagnosis — and won.

AFTER ANTARCTICA

Finalist

Directed by Tasha Van Zandt

After Antarctica follows polar explorer Will Steger’s journey as an eyewitness to the changes in the polar regions of our planet. Thirty years after his expedition across Earth’s coldest continent, Steger is not only known for being the first in history to complete this feat – he is also the last.

BEETHOVEN IN BEIJING

Finalist

Directed by Jennifer Lin & Sharon Mullally

Dispatched by President Nixon in 1973 to help open the “bamboo curtain” separating the Chinese and American people, the iconic Philadelphia Orchestra now turns to its past as a cultural ambassador to strengthen its precarious future at home.

PUNCH 9 FOR HAROLD WASHINGTON

Finalist

Directed by Joe Winston

“Punch 9 for Harold Washington” will tell a national audience, for the first time, the story of how Washington became Chicago’s first African-American mayor, opened up government to everyone, and paved the way for future political leaders, including Barack Obama.

STORMING CAESAR’S PALACE

Finalist

Directed by Hazel Gurland-Pooler

STORMING CAESARS PALACE is an intimate portrait of Ruby Duncan who built a grassroots anti-poverty movement of low-income black mothers in Las Vegas. Championing a Universal Basic Income in 1969, they led their own War on Poverty — and almost won, challenging notions of the “Welfare Queen.”

2019 Prize Winners

FLANNERY

Winner
A gothic story fueled by televangelists and girls with wooden legs, “Flannery” covers the biography of writer Flannery O’Connor with archival footage and creative motion graphics. A devout Catholic who walked with crutches, O’Connor wrote about the enduring prejudices of the post-war south. Mystery and manners abound in this work. Directed by Elizabeth Coffman and Mark Bosco, S.J.

MAE WEST: DIRTY BLONDE

Runner-Up
MAE WEST: DIRTY BLONDE is a feature-length historical documentary film developed by Peeled Grape Productions LLC for PBS’ American Masters. The film explores the extraordinary career and legacy of this complex cultural figure, who left an indelible imprint on American entertainment as a writer, performer, and agitator for social change. Directed by Sally Rosenthal & Julia Marchesi.

MR. SOUL!

Finalist
Before Oprah, before Arsenio, there was Mr. SOUL! An in-depth look at the late 1960s WNET public television series SOUL! and its producer Ellis Haizlip, who provided expanded images of African Americans on television, shifting the gaze from inner-city poverty and violence to the vibrancy of the Black Arts Movement. Directed by Melissa Haizlip.

THE ADVENTURES OF
SAUL BELLOW

Finalist
This is the first major documentary on one of America’s greatest writers, Saul Bellow.  The film examines Bellow’s influence on American literature, explores Bellow as a public figure, and looks at how he dealt with key issues of his time, including race, gender, and the Jewish and immigrant experience. Directed by Asaf Galay.

THE FIRST
ANGRY MAN

Finalist
The First Angry Man tells the story of political outsider Howard Jarvis and the California property tax revolt he led during Governor Jerry Brown’s first term in 1978. Historians credit Jarvis’ campaign for Proposition 13 with triggering a national anti-tax, anti-government movement with immeasurable and enduring consequences. Directed by Jason Cohn & Camille Servan-Schreiber.

9 TO 5: THE STORY
OF A MOVEMENT

Finalist
This historical documentary tells the story of a grassroots national movement of women clerical workers who endured low pay, disrespect and sexual harassment. By the early 1970s, they had had enough. They gathered their courage, rose up against their bosses and started fighting for a better life. Directed by Steven Bognar & Julia Reichert.