Top of page

Program Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film

Award Details

The Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film (Prize for Film) is an annual national prize that provides recognition and resources for exemplary documentary films that tell compelling stories about American history. In 2019, the Library of Congress and The Better Angels Society, a national nonprofit dedicated to engaging Americans with their history through documentary film, created this prize to support enduring educational assets for all Americans. Bestowed annually by the Librarian of Congress in partnership with The Better Angels Society, a cash prize of $200,000 is awarded to one winner, a secondary prize of $50,000 to one runner-up, and $25,000 to each of four finalists. Funding is provided by a generous gift from Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine through the Crimson Lion/Lavine Family Foundation with additional funding from The Better Angels Society.


Interested filmmakers are invited to apply external link for the prize. Films must meet the following criteria to be eligible:

  1. The Film must focus on an American historical subject, issue, or person within a time frame occurring at least twenty years prior to submission.
  2. The majority of the film must be historically focused.
  3. The film must present a variety of perspectives grounded in extensive and thorough research.
  4. Review the complete list of Eligibility and Application requirements external link.


Applications for the 2024 Prize for Film open on February 15 at 12:00 a.m. ET and close on May 1 at 11:59 p.m. ET. All submissions meeting the eligibility requirement are carefully reviewed and considered, with the finalists selected by a National Jury of leading documentary filmmakers, historians, and storytellers. Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden chooses the winner in consultation with award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns. No late submissions will be accepted.

The Next Generation Angels Awards

The Better Angels Society is working to build a pipeline of outstanding American history documentarians who reflect the richness of the United States. In addition to partnering with the Library of Congress on the Prize for Film, The Better Angels Society provides recognition and mentoring to student filmmakers through programs like The Next Generation Angels Awards external link in partnership with National History Day®. This program celebrates the excellence and achievement of six student history documentary filmmakers who embody the future of American storytelling. The student filmmakers are interviewed by Patrick Midtlyng, head of the Recorded Sound Section at the Library of Congress's National Audio-Visual Conservation Center, and The Better Angels Society and the Philadelphia Film Society host a Student History Film Festival in Philadelphia, PA that showcases the winning films. The Next Generation Angels Award winners participate in two exclusive mentorship sessions: one with Ken Burns and another with the professional filmmakers named as finalists for The Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film. The winning films are also copyrighted and registered with the Library of Congress. 

Find out more about the National History Day documentary contest external link for student filmmakers, and find your affiliate external link for contact information, contest dates, and resources.