Winners of the 4th Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film
Pictured from left to right: Jonathan Lavine, Ken Burns, Ross Hockrow, Jeff L. Lieberman, Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden [Photo Credit: Katie Dance]

Bella!, directed by Jeff L. Lieberman, and Philly on Fire, directed by Ross Hockrow and Tommy Walker are the two winners of the fourth annual Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film. The filmmakers will each receive a $200,000 finishing grant to help with final production and distribution.

Bella! tells the story of former United States Representative Bella Abzug, a feminist and civil rights advocate, taking on a Washington establishment resistant to change and sacrificing her own political ambitions for future generations of female leadership.

Philly on Fire chronicles the 1985 Philadelphia police bombing of a row house, which burned down an entire neighborhood, killing 11 people, including five children, destroying 61 homes and rendering 250 people homeless.

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 using archival materials.

Four finalists will each receive a $25,000 finishing grant.

“I’m proud to be recognizing not just one, but two extraordinary documentaries this year,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “One follows the career of a true trailblazer in Congress, “Battling” Bella Abzug, who came to Washington powered by her conviction and slogan that “this woman’s place is in the House — the House of Representatives.” The other documents a harrowing episode in 1985 when the Philadelphia police bombed a row house and killed 11 people. This project to preserve the memory of this shocking event will, I hope, help prevent others like it.”

“With all the extraordinary films we received this year, choosing just one winner proved to be an impossible task,” said Ken Burns. “We’re honored to provide the filmmakers with funds to help finish their films and share them with the public. I have always believed that documentary films help illuminate the past, making it possible for us to see who we are as a nation more clearly while helping us navigate the future.”


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.

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. Sixty-one homes were destroyed, 250 people became homeless. How could this have happened?


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 veteran/renegade pot dealer to legalize medical marijuana.

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 1970s 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.

Share ...

Subscribe for Blog Updates

Sign up for our latest updates.