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Program Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film

2021 Prize Finalists

The Librarian of Congress and Ken Burns announced the 2021 Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film winner and runner-up at a virtual awards ceremony on October 26, 2021. The hour-long ceremony featured excerpts from the six finalist films and a discussion focusing on the acclaimed documentary, JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE, directed by Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize National Jury Member and award-winning filmmaker Dawn Porter in conversation with Dr. Hayden, Ken Burns and moderated by PBS NewsHour’s Yamiche Alcindor.

Watch the Ceremony

  • "Gradually, Then Suddenly: The Bankruptcy of Detroit" – WINNER External link

    Directed by Sam Katz and James McGovern

    Once heralded as the spirit of American manufacturing, music and democracy, Detroit kicked its fiscal can down the road for decades plummeting into insolvency, culminating in the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Gradually, Then Suddenly is the inside story of how a state-appointed Emergency Manager and the people of this iconic American city-- confronting financial ruin--followed a treacherous path towards a new beginning.

    LOC Collection Connections:
    • The AAPB PBS NewsHour Collection External link contains substantial coverage of the Detroit bankruptcy. Including an interview External link with Governor Rick Snyder and emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr from 2013.  
    • Look at change over time in the Detroit metro area through more than 1,500 photos by Camilo Vergara, taken in the 1990s to 2020s. This research guide describes the entirety of the Vergara Collection. Two sample time lapses: 
      • Detroit, Michigan. Ransom Gillis Mansion, 205 Alfred St. [view all]
      • Detroit, Michigan. Packard Plant, E. Grand Blvd. [view all]
    • Explore recent aerial views and landmarks in Detroit, photographed by Carol M. Highsmith.
    • See Detroit during World War II in more than 1,800 photos in the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information collection.
    • Explore related Library collections with our collection of more than 1,000 photos of Detroit in the early 1900s sold by the Detroit Publishing Company.
    • Detailed documentation of architectural sites in Detroit through the Historic American Buildings Survey.
  • "Free Chol Soo Lee" – RUNNER-UP External link

    Directed by Julie Ha and Eugene Yi

    After a Korean immigrant is wrongly convicted of a 1973 San Francisco Chinatown gang murder, Asian Americans unite as never before to free Chol Soo Lee. A former street hustler becomes the symbol for a landmark movement. But once out, he self-destructs, threatening the movement’s legacy and the man himself.

    Preview not available. Film in production.

    LOC Collection Connections:
    • Many of the library’s collections are only available by visiting our Reading Rooms. The MacDonald Collection of news reals contain 1970’s broadcast news outtakes related to San Francisco and Chinatown in the 1970s. To find out more, check out the collection holdings.
    • Explore the transformation of San Francisco’s Chinatown through these collections:
    • For information on the extensive holdings on Detroit from our Moving Image Section, including 1930s news reels; “Portrait of a City” (1951), a Ford Motor Co. film on the history of Detroit and Ford’s influence; and Ben Hook’s TV program “Go Tell it” featuring an interview with Detroit Mayor Coleman Young (1979) and a look at the city’s preservation and restoration (1981) contact the Moving Image Research Center.
  • “Bonnie Blue: James Cotton’s Life in the Blues” - FINALIST External link

    Directed by Bestor Cram

    The story of James Cotton, harmonica powerhouse, whose music shaped blues and rock. Orphaned at 9, Cotton’s life tracks America’s history -- from the post-depression cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta to being mentored by the original Delta bluesmen, to Chicagoland’s artistic reinvention to the live music scene in Austin, Texas.

    LOC Collection Connections:
  • “Double Exposure” (working title) – FINALIST External link

    Directed by Phil Bertelsen

    Ernest Withers' camera captured the joys and sorrows of African American life and spread the news of civil rights. His photos also appeared in FBI files, provided by informant ME-338-R: Ernest Withers. DOUBLE EXPOSURE unravels Withers' mystery and motives, raising questions about loyalty, power, and patriotism in very troubled times.

    LOC Collection Connections:
    • Explore some of Ernest Withers photographs collected at the Library of Congress: 30 selected photos
    • Watch the full interview External link with Ernest Withers conducted for the 2003 American Experience documentary The Murder of Emmett Till.
    • The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom. This Library of Congress exhibition, which commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, explores the events that shaped the civil rights movement, as well as the far-reaching impact the act had on a changing society. 
    • When the Former Vice President of the Confederacy Debated Civil Rights with an African American Congressman. This blog post describes a Congressional floor debate over civil rights between Rep. Robert B. Elliot and Rep. Alexander Stephens. Stephens, who had served as the Vice President of the Confederacy.
  • “Exposing Muybridge” - FINALIST External link

    Directed by Marc Shaffer

    Exposing Muybridge is the first feature documentary to tell the melodramatic story of 19th-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Muybridge was the first photographer to capture something moving faster than the human eye can see--Leland Stanford's galloping horses--a critical step towards the development of cinema.

    LOC Collection Connections:
    • Photos of Edward Muybridge and his “Horse in Motion” photographic experimentation can be found in the collection of the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division as well as a blog post on this photographic pioneer called “The Father of the Motion Picture.” Muybridge photographed horses in motion at the bequest of the former governor of California, Leland Stanford, a horse aficionado and the president of the Central Pacific Railroad. Muybridge’s photographic system involved cameras tripped by threads that were broken as Stanford’s champion racehorses passed by to snap images of the animals in front of white backgrounds and measured vertical lines. One columnist wrote that there was “something so complicated yet so simple and wonderful in the plan by which the horse took his own picture!”
    • For another documentary on the history of early cinema featuring Edward Muybridge, check out J. Stuart Blackton’s “March of the Movies” (1933) – find out more about this film by asking a librarian.
  • "The Five Demands" – FINALIST External link

    Directed by Greta Schiller

    In 1969, Black and Puerto Rican students locked the gates of The City College of New York with five demands for increasing diversity and access to education. Fueled by the revolutionary fervor sweeping the nation, their protest turned into a two-week historic takeover that changed the face of higher education.

    LOC Collection Connections:
    • Explore photo images of City College of New York including student demonstrations, historic views of the college itself and posters of students, many of them related to activist movements from our Prints and Photographs Division.
    • The Library holds the records of the NAACP including photographs of schools and activities to eliminate segregation in education at the college and secondary levels.  
    • The Library’s holdings include network news coverage of the 1969 unrest at CCNY. Ask a librarian for more information.
    • African American and Puerto Rican youth produced short films “The Jungle” and “The End” focused on their tough urban neighborhoods in Philadelphia and NYC respectively – both of which are available through the Library’s Moving Image Research Center.

Next Generation Angels Awards

2021 Next Generation Angels Awards – Student Filmmakers External link