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Flannery O'Connor Film Nabs Ken Burns Prize at Library of Congress

,, | October 16, 2019 | By


Great news from the inbox about an honor for a film about beloved Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor ...


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

Washington, DC – October 16, 2019 – 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 the Georgia writer Flannery O’Connor. 

“FLANNERY” is a feature-length documentary which explores the life and writings of Flannery 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.

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 October 17th. 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, Dr. 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 Ken 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 re-discover the writings of Flannery O’Connor because of this film.”

“Ken Burns and I were in immediate agreement,” said Dr. Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress.  “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.” 

Well, I don't know about anyone being "haunted" by faith, but we're thrilled for the makers of Flannery. Click here to visit the official homepage, and take a look at the trailer.



Flannery Trailer from Elizabeth Coffman on Vimeo.

A couple of years ago, as part of Prayer and Pasta, our monthly speaker/event series here at Family Theater Productions, we welcomed Tom Bernardo, a writer for the Amazon series Bosch -- who decided to talk about his own favorite writer, Flannery O'Connor.

He also sat down with us for an interview video that expands on some of his thoughts about O'Connor and Catholic writers in general. Enjoy!

Image: Screenshot from Flannery trailer

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on FacebookTwitter  and YouTube.

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