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Release Date: 27 Jul 2022

Award to Provide $200,000 Finishing Grant to One of Six Film Finalists

Washington, DC – July 26, 2022 – The Better Angels Society, the Library of Congress, and the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation today announced the six finalists for the fourth annual Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film. The award, which was established in 2019, recognizes one late-stage documentary that uses original research and compelling narrative to tell stories that bring American history to life using archival materials.

The winning filmmaker will receive a $200,000 finishing grant to help with the final production and distribution of the film. In addition, one runner-up receives a grant of $50,000 and up to four finalists each receive a $25,000 grant. The funds are to be used for finishing, marketing, distribution, and outreach.

The 2022 Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film Finalists are:

BELLA, directed by Jeff L. Lieberman

In 1970, Bella Abzug entered Congress ready for a fight. With her trademark hat and Bronx swagger, the first elected Feminist upended the Washington patriarchy, battling for women’s equality, civil rights, and LGBTQ+ protections. Despite Nixon and the FBI’s attempts to silence her, Bella persisted - revolutionizing the blueprint for America.

CANNABIS BUYERS CLUB, directed by Kip Andersen and Chris O'Connell

CANNABIS BUYERS CLUB tells the unknown story of the most important LGBTQ+ rights struggle of the 20th century. How a neglected group of people suffering the horrors of the AIDS pandemic in San Francisco were led by a Gay Vietnam Vet/renegade pot dealer to legalize medical marijuana.

PHILLY ON FIRE, directed by Ross Hockrow and Tommy Walker

On May 13, 1985, the Philadelphia Police dropped a bomb on a row house, burning down an entire neighborhood. 11 people died, five of them children. 61 homes were destroyed, 250 people became homeless. How could this have happened?


IMAGINING THE INDIAN: THE FIGHT AGAINST NATIVE AMERICAN MASCOTING aims to inform and educate about the use of Native American names, logos, and mascots in sports and beyond, which has had damaging effects on the self-esteem of Native people. It is a comprehensive examination of the long-standing movement against mascoting.

RAYMOND LEWIS: L.A. LEGEND, directed by Ryan Polomski (Dean Prator, Co-Director)

RAYMOND LEWIS: L.A. LEGEND tells the true story of the mythical basketball phenom from Watts, California -- who many say was blackballed from the NBA in the early 70’s for demanding equality -- and the never-told-before tale of his unlikely and heartbreaking journey towards becoming a hoops legend.


Dubbed “father of American music" by Aaron Copland, composer/critic Virgil Thomson (1896-1989) is largely unknown to the public. This biography, featuring new and archival music performances, establishes Thomson’s originality, versatility and influence not only as creator of the American classical sound but as an insightful critic of our cultural scene.

The 4th Annual Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film will be awarded this fall at a ceremony with Members of Congress and will feature Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden and Ken Burns, along with other special guests to be announced.

A wide array of late-stage professional American history documentary films were submitted for consideration this year 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, reviewed the submissions.

The six finalists will be reviewed and narrowed down to the top two submissions by the Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film Jury. This year’s Jury includes 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. Dr. Hayden, in consultation with Ken Burns, will then select the winning film.

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


About Ken Burns

Ken Burns has been making documentary films for over forty 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; and COUNTRY MUSIC. Future film projects include BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, AMERICA AND THE HOLOCAUST, 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 sixteen 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 Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating Americans about their history through documentary film. Their mission is to educate, engage and provoke thoughtful discussion among people of every political persuasion and ideology. 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 films in production and planned over the next ten years.

The Better Angels Society is also working to ensure that the next generation of documentary filmmakers, inspired by Ken Burns and his team, receive the education, mentoring, training, and support they need to continue his legacy.

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 the areas of education, community and public service, health and welfare, and 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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