2024 Better Angels Lavine Fellowship Recipients Announced


Mentorship Program Recognizes Five Documentaries

About Underrepresented American History

Washington, DC – April 4, 2024 – The Better Angels Society, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to engaging with Americans about their history through documentary film, has announced the recipients of the 2024 Better Angels Lavine Fellowship. Each year, since the fellowship was established in 2021, the organization has selected five promising films that tell underrepresented stories about American history from submissions to the Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film, which recognizes exemplary U.S. history documentaries.

The filmmakers associated with each film will receive a $5,000 cash prize and individualized mentorship sessions over several months. The fellows can select the type of mentorship guidance and advice they need in order to advance their project and seek distribution. Past expert sessions have focused on a variety of areas including marketing and distribution, film festival strategy, budgeting, legal and copyright, archival research and clearances, and more. The fellowship includes the opportunity for three interactive group workshops, as well as an expert review of the filmmakers’ rough or fine-cut films with feedback on storytelling, structure, clarity, script, and character development. Many fellows have gone on to screen at major film festivals and secure distribution on PBS and other outlets

“These films vividly demonstrate that there are always new things for us to discover about our shared history,” said Katherine Malone-France, President & CEO of The Better Angels Society. “These films and the talented individuals who are making them represent the additive power of history, reminding us that we all belong in and are part of American history. The more we can add to the American story, the stronger it will become.”

“We’re thrilled to recognize these five documentaries,” said Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine. “Each film combines meticulous research with compelling storytelling, upholding the legacy of the pipeline of documentaries that we’ve supported over the years. We want to ensure that filmmakers are employed with the resources that they need in order to get important stories like these out into the world.”

The Better Angels Lavine Fellowship is made possible by The Better Angels Society and a generous gift from Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine. All applicants to the Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film are automatically considered for the Fellowship and no additional application materials are necessary.

The 2024 Better Angels Lavine Fellowship recipients are:

THE APOLOGY, Directed by Mimi Chakarova

On January 8, 1963, officials in Alameda County, California, began hearings to discuss the forced removal of Russell City, an unincorporated area comprised of predominantly Black and Latino residents. Soon after, authorities wiped out the entire community with bulldozers and rezoned the 200 acres for industrial use.

DORY PREVIN: ON MY WAY TO WHERE, Directed by Julia Greenberg and Dianna Dilworth

A documentary about Dory Previn, an MGM lyricist and influential 1970s cult singer-songwriter who famously went public about her schizophrenia diagnosis, ultimately accepting her voices and anticipating a modern-day neurodiversity movement. 

SECOND GROWTH, Directed by Robert Carpenter

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 game as the foundation of a larger cultural movement.

WEDNESDAYS IN MISSISSIPPI, Directed by Marlene McCurtis

Wednesdays in Mississippi tells the story of an all-women civil rights program when teams from Northern cities, consisting of Black and white women, navigated high personal risk to contribute vital strategic presence on the ground in dangerous Mississippi during Freedom Summer and throughout the ’60s, seeding a legacy for social change.

WELCOME TO JAY, Directed by Jeffrey Morgan

When a black teenager is shot and killed attending a party in Jay, Florida, the town’s racist past becomes its present and leads to the uncovering of a shockingly similar murder in 1922 that changed the community forever.  

Past fellowship recipients include Joy Elaine Davenport’s FANNY LOU HAMER’S AMERICA, which won the 2022 IDA Documentary Award for Best TV Feature Documentary or Mini Series, Dru Holley’s BUFFALO SOLDIERS: FIGHTING ON TWO FRONTS, which was broadcast on PBS and WORLD Channel, Ben DiGiacomo’s BAD LIKE BROOKLYN DANCEHALL, which world premiered at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival, and Patrick Longstreth’s THE DAY THAT SHOOK GEORGIA, which will have its broadcast premiere this month on the PBS documentary series Reel South.

To learn more about the 2024 Better Angels Lavine Fellowship, visit www.thebetterangelssociety.org.

About The Better Angels Society

The Better Angels Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating Americans about their history through documentary film. They are the pre-eminent organization supporting excellence in American history documentaries in ways that advance education and civic engagement. The Society works to ensure that films about American history by emerging and established filmmakers are completed, broadcast, promoted, and shared with wide audiences. The organization raises funds to support individual films in partnership with public media and provides recognition and mentoring to student filmmakers through programs like The Next Generation Angels Awards in partnership with National History Day®.

About The Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation

Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine established the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation to focus a significant portion of their philanthropic efforts toward leveling the playing field for individuals and families. The Foundation works to address pressing social challenges in education, community and public service, health and welfare, discrimination, and poverty. The Foundation supports the multi-disciplinary efforts of organizations that serve to strengthen society through research, innovation, public policy, direct service, and advocacy.

Photo is courtesy of the Hayward Area Historical Society Collection for The Apology