October 16, 2019 Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film Awarded to "Flannery," Directed by Elizabeth Coffman and Mark Bosco

First Annual Award to Provide $200,000 Finishing Grant for Film about the Georgia Writer, Flannery O’Connor

Press Contact: Sheryl Cannady, Library of Congress (202) 707-6456 | Joe DePlasco, DKC Public Relations (212) 981-5125

Image from “Flannery,” a new film directed by Elizabeth Coffman and Mark Bosco on the life of author Flannery O’Connor

The Better Angels Society, the Library of Congress and the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation today announced that the first Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film has been awarded to “Flannery,” a new film directed by Elizabeth Coffman and Jesuit priest Mark Bosco that documents the life of Georgia writer Flannery O’Connor. 

“Flannery” is a feature-length documentary that explores the life and writings of O’Connor, whose provocative, award-winning fiction about Southern prophets, girls with wooden legs and an assemblage of unique and often fantastic characters has inspired artists, musicians and writers around the world. Watch a trailer for the film here. External

The award, along with a $200,000 finishing grant, will be presented to the filmmakers at a gala at the Library of Congress the evening of Oct. 17. The Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film is a new, annual prize that recognizes a filmmaker whose documentary uses original research and compelling narrative to tell stories that touch on some aspect of American history. 

Eighty films were submitted for consideration earlier this year. Ten films were then reviewed by an internal committee consisting of filmmakers from Florentine Films and expert staff from the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center, the Library’s state-of-the-art moving image and recorded sound preservation facility. The six finalists were then reviewed by a national jury consisting of Edward Ayers, Tucker-Boatwright professor of the humanities and president emeritus at the University of Richmond; Andrew Delbanco, the Alexander Hamilton professor of American studies at Columbia University and president of the Teagle Foundation; Rachel Dretzin, co-founder of Brooklyn-based Ark Media and a principal producer, director and writer with the company; and Dawn Porter, an American documentary filmmaker and the founder of production company Trilogy Films. The winner was selected by the Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden in consultation with Ken Burns.

“‘Flannery’ is an extraordinary documentary that allows us to follow the creative process of one of our country’s greatest writers,” said Burns. “It also provides us a glimpse into her life, including her Catholic faith, her unusual sensitivity to race as a Southern white woman and her daily struggles with illness and the prospect and reality of an early mortality. The story is beautifully told and captures the power of her Southern birth and life. We’re hopeful that a new generation of readers will rediscover the writings of Flannery O’Connor because of this film.”

“Ken Burns and I were in immediate agreement,” said Hayden. “As the Librarian of Congress, I’m of course thrilled that the subject of the winning film was a writer. But more important, the film is a beautiful and thoughtful reflection about the power of words and contemplation as well as the satisfaction that comes from a commitment to art and craft. We are honored to present the first Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film to Elizabeth Coffman and her co-director Mark Bosco.”

“We are honored to support this award,” noted philanthropists Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine, who provided the funding to The Better Angels Society to endow this award through the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation. “We believe that history helps all of us better understand who we are as a people and how our culture is enriched by diverse voices. Flannery O’Connor was an artist of remarkable talent and originality, but she also defied simple categorization given her Southern upbringing, her strong Catholic faith and her commitment to a sense of place and individuality. We applaud Elizabeth Coffman and Mark Bosco for their work, as we do the other recipients this year.” Jeannie Lavine serves on the board of The Better Angels Society.

Elizabeth Coffman, the director and an associate professor of film and digital media at Loyola University, said, “This wonderful award supports filmmakers who seek creative ways for listening to U.S. history with all of our ‘freaks’ and prophets, our serial killers and our saints – to paraphrase Flannery O’Connor – and will help to revive the hilarious, transcendent talent of writers who exist just outside the mainstream. Who says, 'good men are hard to find'?!"

“It is such a great honor to receive this award, as it highlights Flannery O’Connor’s unique place in American literature,” said Mark Bosco, the co-director of the film and the vice president for mission and ministry at Georgetown University. “Her life and her work resonate with contemporary issues concerning faith, race, gender and disability. Her stories vividly portray narratives of cultural conflict in a nation still haunted by religious belief.” 

The Better Angels Society has supplemented the Lavines’ award by providing additional awards to the Prize finalists — they awarded $50,000 to “Mae West: Dirty Blonde,” directed by Sally Rosenthal and Julia Marchesi, and four $25,000 grants were awarded to the finalists: “The Adventures of Saul Bellow,” directed by Assaf Galay; “The First Angry Man,” directed by Jason Cohn; “Mr. Soul,” directed by Melissa Haizlip; and “9 to 5: The Story of a Movement,” directed by Julia Reichert.

Earlier this year, The Better Angels Society also announced the six winners of The Next Generation Angels Awards, an award recognizing middle and high school students for excellence in historical filmmaking. Information about the winners and their films can be found at contest.thebetterangelssociety.org/awards/. External

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 Statue of Liberty"; "Huey Long"; "Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery"; "Frank Lloyd Wright"; "Mark Twain"; "Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson"; "The War"; "The National Parks: America’s Best Idea"; "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History"; "Jackie Robinson"; "Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War"; "The Vietnam War"; "The Mayo Clinic: Faith - Hope – Science"; and most recently "Country Music." 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 nonprofit 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, discrimination and poverty. The Foundation supports the multidisciplinary 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 loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.


PR 19-100
ISSN 0731-3527