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Ken Burns inaugurates film prize with grant to creators of Flannery O’Connor documentary

Ken Burns, director of the PBS documentary series "Country Music," speaking in a panel discussion during the 2019 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Beverly Hills, Calif. Burns is inaugurating a new prize designed to promote historical films. Its first $200,000 grant will go to directors of “Flannery,” about the late Southern writer Flannery O’Connor. Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, file/Invision/AP

Ken Burns is inaugurating an annual prize for makers of historical films with a $200,000 grant to the people behind an upcoming movie about the late Georgia writer Flannery O’Connor.

The movie ‘‘Flannery’’ shows the influence behind the novelist and short story writer’s work, as she lived in a rural Southern town and struggled with lupus. The author of ‘‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’’ died in 1964 at age 39.

Burns, the noted documentarian, said he knows from experience the expense involved in getting projects like these done.

The film by Elizabeth Coffman and Mark Bosco ‘‘made me go out and buy her books,’’ he said.


Burns’ nonprofit Better Angels Society is collaborating with Boston philanthropists Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine and the Library of Congress on the award. The Lavines donated $15 million earlier this year to create The Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film. Judges sifted through some 80 entrants, he said.

‘‘We were stunned not only by the volume of submissions but by the quality of them,’’ Burns said.

A $50,000 grant is being given to the makers of ‘‘Mae West: Dirty Blonde,’’ the awards’ runner-up, with four $25,000 grants given to other finalists.ASSOCIATED PRESS