The 2021 Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize For Film


A National Award for History Documentary Filmmaking


This annual national prize, now in its 3rd year, is designed to provide finishing funds, including outreach and marketing, for feature-length U.S. historical documentaries in the tradition of Ken Burns. Appropriate submissions are rough or fine cuts of films focusing on U.S. history that use inclusive voices, reflect the highest standards of accuracy and original research, and are driven by compelling storytelling. The goal of this annual award is to encourage and support quality U.S. history documentary films so that a greater number will be seen by a wider audience.

All submissions meeting the eligibility requirement will be carefully reviewed and considered, with the finalists selected by a national jury comprised of leading documentary filmmakers and historians.  The winner will be selected by the Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, in consultation with Ken Burns.

On October 26, 2021, the Library of Congress will host the virtual Awards Ceremony for this year’s Prize recipients.


The Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film is a $200,000 cash award presented annually to an independent filmmaker for post-production and finishing costs, including outreach and marketing, associated with an original, feature-length U.S. historical documentary in the tradition of Ken Burns.

A $50,000 cash prize will be awarded to the runner-up and $25,000 will be awarded to 3-4 finalists.

Films must reflect the highest standards of historical research, balance, accuracy, and dramatic storytelling.

Prize winners will be recognized by Ken Burns and the Librarian of Congress at a virtual Awards Ceremony on October 26, 2021.



1. The project must be a late-stage documentary film with a running time of 50 minutes
or more.

2. The subject matter of the film must be American history.

3. The applicant must have previously produced or directed at least one long-form
documentary for broadcast or online distribution.

4. The applicant must submit 20 minutes of a rough or fine cut AND a script of a full-
length rough or fine cut at the time of submission of application. (Note: Upon request,
the applicant will need to be able to provide a full-length rough or fine cut for review.)

5. Industrial, promotional, branded content, or instructional films are not eligible.


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