The Better Angels Society and the Library of Congress Announce Jury for Fourth Annual Prize for Film

Washington, DC – May 12, 2022 – The Better Angels Society, the Library of Congress, and the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation today announced this year’s Jury for the fourth annual Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film, which recognizes exemplary accomplishment in historical documentaries.

Six celebrated voices across government, academia, and film will bestow this year’s Prize for Film, which will be announced at an awards ceremony later this year. This year’s jurors are: DR. CARLA HAYDEN, Librarian of Congress who will chair the Jury; DR. ANNETTE GORDON-REED, Harvard University professor; SAM POLLARD, filmmaker; DAWN PORTER, filmmaker; SALLY ROSENTHAL, filmmaker; and DR. CLAUDIO SAUNT, University of Georgia professor.

“These exceptional filmmakers and scholars will convene to select the finalists from an extraordinary collection of films that tell stories that expand our understanding of our past and paint a fuller picture of who we are as a people and a country,” said Ken Burns. “Each brings a diverse personal perspective and an acute understanding of the past to the very difficult task of selecting films that are impactful stories about our country’s past.  We must at this point do all we can to provide the tools – and there are no better than film – to help people of all backgrounds understand the complexity of our nation’s history.  If we agree to look at the past together hopefully we can begin to discuss the future.”

“The excellence of bringing these brilliant artists and scholars together celebrates storytelling by honoring the nation’s rich diversity and our collective history,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “The Library of Congress is vital in the collection and preservation of films and the American Story. It is our privilege to work again with Ken Burns, the Better Angels Society and Jeanie and Jonathan Lavine in amplifying the voices of these filmmakers.”

“We’re thankful to this year’s jurors who will come together with the difficult task of choosing from the exceptional historical documentaries we receive each year,” said Courtney Chapin, Executive Director of The Better Angels Society. “We are so grateful they are part of The Better Angels Society community and for their support in honoring our common history through documentary film.”

DR. CARLA HAYDEN was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress on September 14, 2016. She is the first woman and the first African American to lead the national library, and was nominated to the position by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Prior to her latest post, she served, since 1993, as CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland. She was nominated by President Obama to be a member of the National Museum and Library Services Board in 2010 and was confirmed to that post by the Senate. She also served as Deputy Commissioner and Chief Librarian of the Chicago Public Library from 1991 to 1993.

DR. ANNETTE GORDON-REED is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard University. Gordon-Reed won 16 book prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize  and the National Book Award, for THE HEMINGSES OF MONTICELLO: AN AMERICAN FAMILY  (2008). She is the author of six books, and editor of two. She was the Vyvyan Harmsworth Visiting Professor of American History at the University of Oxford (Queen’s College) 2014-2015, and was appointed an Honorary Fellow at Queen’s in 2021. Gordon-Reed served as the 2018-2019 President of the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, and is currently president of the Ames Foundation. Her honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations, and the National Humanities Medal. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the British Academy.

SAM POLLARD is an accomplished feature film and television video editor, and documentary producer/director. Between 1990 and 2010, Mr. Pollard edited a number of Spike Lee’s films:  MO’ BETTER BLUES, JUNGLE FEVER, GIRL 6, CLOCKERS, and BAMBOOZLED. Mr. Pollard and Mr. Lee co-produced a number of documentary productions for the small and big screen, FOUR LITTLE GIRLS, a feature-length documentary about the 1963 Birmingham church bombings which was nominated for an Academy Award and WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE, a four part documentary that won numerous awards, including a Peabody and three Emmy Awards. In 2010 he co-produced and supervised the edit on the follow up to Levees, IF GOD IS WILLING AND DA CREEK DON’T RISE.

Since 2012, Mr. Pollard has completed, as a producer/director, SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME, a 90-minute documentary for PBS that was in competition at the Sundance Festival; AUGUST WILSON: THE GROUND ON WHICH I STAND, a 90-minute documentary in 2015 for American Masters; TWO TRAINS RUNNIN’, a feature length documentary in 2016 that premiered at the Full Frame Film Festival; and SAMMY DAVIS JR., I’VE GOTTA BE ME for American Masters which premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. In 2019, Mr. Pollard co-directed the six part series WHY WE HATE that premiered on The Discovery Channel. In 2020 he was one of the directors on the 2020 HBO series ATLANTA’S MISSING AND MURDERED: THE LOST CHILDREN.  In 2020, he also completed MLK/FBI that premiered at the 2020 Toronto Film Festival and the New York Film Festival.

DAWN PORTER is an American documentary filmmaker and the founder of production company Trilogy Films. Her award-winning films include GIDEON’S ARMY (2013), about three Black public defenders working the southern United States; SPIES OF MISSISSIPPI (2014), and the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission efforts to preserve segregation during the 50s and 60s; TRAPPED (2016), about the impact of anti-abortion laws on abortion providers in the South; BOBBY KENNEDY FOR PRESIDENT (2018), a four-part miniseries examining the “Bobby Phenomenon” of the 1960s and the legacy of the man who helped redefine the country; JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE (2020), an intimate account of legendary U.S. Representative John Lewis’ life, legacy and more than 60 years of extraordinary activism; THE WAY I SEE IT (2020), about White House photographer Pete Souza; and THE ME YOU CAN’T SEE (2021), the mental health series produced by Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry.  

SALLY ROSENTHAL is an award winning documentary television producer and director, focusing primarily on performing arts history. She produced the six-part PBS series BROADWAY: THE AMERICAN MUSICAL (2004), for which she won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Series, as well as the Emmy-nominated six-part PBS series MAKE ‘EM LAUGH: THE FUNNY BUSINESS OF AMERICA (2009), and the acclaimed three-part PBS series SUPERHEROES: A NEVER-ENDING BATTLE (2013), all with American Masters’ Executive Producer Michael Kantor. She was a producer on the eight-part PBS series SOUNDBREAKING: STORIES FROM THE CUTTING EDGE OF RECORDED MUSIC (2016), for which she was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Music Film. Most recently, she produced the American Masters films MAE WEST: DIRTY BLONDE (2019 Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film runner-up), N. SCOTT MOMADAY: WORDS FROM A BEAR (2019 Sundance Film Festival), and the Emmy-nominated SAMMY DAVIS, JR.: I’VE GOTTA BE ME (2017 Toronto International Film Festival).

DR. CLAUDIO SAUNT is Russell Professor in American History and Regents’ Professor at the University of Georgia. He is the author of four books, including WEST OF THE REVOLUTION (2014), BLACK, WHITE, AND INDIAN (2005), and A NEW ORDER OF THINGS (1999). His most recent book, UNWORTHY REPUBLIC (2020), was awarded the Bancroft Prize, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and the Ridenhour Book Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Earlier this year, The Better Angels Society and Library of Congress announced that entries are being accepted for the fourth annual Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film. To be eligible for the award, films must be submitted by June 1, 2022 and meet several criteria, most notably films must be late-stage documentaries with a running time of 50 minutes or longer focused on American history. For more information about the submission guidelines, visit