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The Better Angels Society Announces Finalists for Fifth Annual Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize For Film

Release Date: 24 Jul 2023
Library of Congress Lavine Ken Burns Prize for Film

The Better Angels Society Announces Finalists for Fifth Annual Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize For Film
Award to Provide $200,000 Prize to One of Six Film Finalists

Washington, DC – July 20, 2023 – The Better Angels Society, the Library of Congress, and the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation today announced the six finalists for the fifth annual Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film. The award, which was established in 2019, recognizes late-stage documentaries that use original research and compelling narrative to tell stories that bring American history to life through archival materials.

“We’ve seen time and again what a powerful tool a great historical documentary can be in sparking long overdue national conversations that are critical to how we understand the present,” says Ken Burns. “Thanks to the generous support of Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine, and with the participation of the Library of Congress and The Better Angels Society, this prize was established to address the crucial need for finishing funds among documentarians making films about American history, in a similar vein of my work over the years. Five years on, we continue to be amazed by the quality of the film submissions and the diversity of their topics as evidenced by each of these terrific films.”

The winning filmmaker will receive a $200,000 prize, intended to support the final production and distribution of the film. In addition, one runner-up receives an award of $50,000, and four finalists each receive a $25,000 award.

“Audiences have a great hunger for storytelling that helps them understand and interpret the past, and film allows us to engage with our history in a way that is both entertaining and enlightening,” said Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine, who provided the funding to The Better Angels Society to support this prize through the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation. “We are proud to support this prize, and we congratulate each finalist on this recognition of their important work.”

The 2023 Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film Finalists are:

BUCKLEY, directed by Barak Goodman

BUCKLEY (working title) is a biography of one of the 20th Century’s most charismatic, controversial and influential political figures, William F. Buckley, Jr. Featuring a large cast of contemporaries, acolytes, and critics, the film reveals how WFB practically invented the modern conservative movement.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MISS SCOTT, directed by Nicole London

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MISS SCOTT tells the story of the incredible Hazel Scott, jazz darling, Hollywood star, and civil rights pioneer years before the formal civil rights movement began. The first African American with a network TV show. Wrongfully accused of Communist sympathies, her career shattered. Soon after, she was in exile, erased.

DROP DEAD CITY – NEW YORK ON THE BRINK IN 1975, directed by Peter Yost and Michael Rohatyn

DROP DEAD CITY documents the NYC Fiscal Crisis of 1975, an extraordinary, overlooked episode in urban American history that saw an already-crumbling city of 8 million people brought to the edge of bankruptcy and social chaos by a perfect storm of debt, greed, ambitious social policy, and poor governance.

THE HARVESTproduced by Doug Blackmon and Sam Pollard

THE HARVEST is a deeply personal documentary depicting one southern town’s painful struggle to integrate its public schools at the height of the civil rights movement and the manifold repercussions of those events continuing to the present day. The film is grounded in journalistic inquiry and historical scholarship.

MAX ROACH: THE DRUM ALSO WALTZES, directed by Sam Pollard and Ben Shapiro

MAX ROACH: THE DRUM ALSO WALTZES explores the life and music of the legendary drummer, bandleader, and social activist – a remarkable series of creative peaks, personal struggles, and reinventions – from Jim Crow to the Civil Rights years, from the heady days of post-war modern jazz to hip hop and beyond.


MODERNISM INC. tells the story of Eliot Noyes, the influential architect ofcomprehensive corporate design programs in the mid-20th Century. Noyes is most noted for his work at IBM, where he transmitted Modernist thinking, set the standards for corporate design, and played a critical role in the rise of computers.

The Fifth Annual Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film will be awarded on September 26, 2023, at a ceremony with Members of Congress featuring the Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, and Ken Burns, along with other special guests to be announced.

Adiverse range of late-stage American history documentary features were submitted for consideration earlier this year, which were reviewed by an internal committee comprised of filmmakers from Florentine Films and expert staff from the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center, the Library of Congress’ state-of-the-art moving image and recorded sound preservation facility.

The National Jury will review the six finalists and determine the top two.This year’s Jury includes Dr. Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard University Professor; Dawn Porter, filmmaker; Sally Rosenthal, filmmaker; and Dr. Claudio Saunt, University of Georgia professor. The Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, will then consult with Ken Burns to select the winning film.

Since 2019 more than $1.6 million has been distributed among filmmakers. Winning films have included FLANNERY (Directed by Elizabeth Coffman and Mark Bosco, S.J.); HOLD YOUR FIRE (Directed by Stefan Forbes); GRADUALLY, THEN SUDDENLY: THE BANKRUPTCY OF DETROIT (Directed by Sam Katz and James McGovern); BELLA! THIS WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE HOUSE (Directed by Jeff L. Lieberman); and PHILLY ON FIRE (Directed by Ross Hockrow and Tommy Walker). These – and other recognized films – have gone on to have theatrical releases, to be included and recognized at major festivals, and to air on PBS and otherplatforms.

To learn more about the Fifth Annual Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film,


About Ken Burns

Ken Burns has been making documentary films for over 40 years. Since the Academy Award-nominated BROOKLYN BRIDGE in 1981, Ken has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made, including THE CIVIL WAR; BASEBALL; JAZZ; THE WAR; THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA; THE ROOSEVELTS: AN INTIMATE HISTORY; JACKIE ROBINSON; THE VIETNAM WAR; COUNTRY MUSIC; BENJAMIN FRANKLIN; THE U.S. AND THE HOLOCAUST. Future film projects include THE AMERICAN BUFFALO, LEONARDO DA VINCI, THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, EMANCIPATION TO EXODUS, and LBJ & THE GREAT SOCIETY, among others. Ken’s films have been honored with dozens of major awards, including 16 Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, and two Oscar nominations; and in September of 2008, at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, Ken was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

About The Better Angels Society

The Better Angels Societyis a non-profit organization dedicated to educating Americans about their history through documentary film. Their mission is to be the preeminent organization supporting American history documentary filmmakers, advancing the use of their body of work to promote civic engagement and educate generations of students and lifelong learners. They work to ensure historically significant films are completed, broadcast, promoted, and shared in ways that reach and inform as many people as possible through robust educational and civic outreach. The Society is currently raising funds for the films of Ken Burns and his team, as well as their Better Angel Stories initiative, which provides funding for films on public media through partnerships withAmerican Experience(GBH),American Masters(WNET), and WETA.

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.

About the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services, and other programs and plan a visit at, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at, and register creative works of authorship at

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