John E. O'Connor Film Award

The submission deadline has passed. Awardees are announced in the fall, and the next contest will begin in spring 2023.

In recognition of his exceptional role as a pioneer in both teaching and research regarding film and history, the American Historical Association has established this award in honor of John E. O’Connor, New Jersey Institute of Technology. The award seeks to recognize outstanding interpretations of history through the medium of film or video and may be given in each of two categories: Dramatic Feature and Documentary.

The award is honorific. Award winners will be screened at the AHA's annual meeting, if appropriate permissions can be obtained. One person associated with each winning film will be invited to host the screening. See the list of past recipients.

Criteria for Assessment

  1. Stimulation of Interest in History: The production should arouse interest in the past and encourage viewers to ask questions about historical interpretations.
  2. Imaginative Use of the Media: The production should provide a unique perspective on the past through compelling use of aural and visual techniques and narrative structure. Successful nominees may take a wide variety of approaches to the past, including innovative presentational approaches beyond the traditional linear narrative.
  3. Effective Presentation of Historical Subject: The production should communicate its subject in ways that engage and enlighten viewers and encourage them to seek additional insights through reading and other media. It should be informed by trends in recent historical scholarship and make a contribution, in its own right, to the public’s understanding of and appreciation for history.

Eligibility Requirements

  1. Dramatic feature and documentary films and videos (including web-based) will be considered for the award.
  2. Films or videos must be in English or have English-language subtitles or dubbing.
  3. Films or videos must have been copyrighted or first screened or broadcast in 2022 to be eligible for the 2023 award.
  4. Films and videos should be no longer than feature length. If the nomination is for a series, then one episode only shall be nominated and considered by the prize committee. If that episode is determined to win the prize in either Documentary or Dramatic Feature categories, then the prize will be awarded to that episode only. The series as a whole to which the episode belongs shall be acknowledged in the award announcement.

Application Process

Log into your MY AHA account at historians.org/myaha and click “Available Application Forms” in the AHA Awards, Grants, and Jobs section. If you don't have an account, create one for free at historians.org/createaccount.

  1. Fill in the application form, which includes
    • the nominee’s contact information
    • the title of the nominated film
    • the category, Documentary or Dramatic Feature
    • the names of the producer(s), director(s), and production company
    • any instructions for accessing the film in a free and universally accessible online streaming format. If a streaming option is unavailable, please contact awards@historians.org for a list of review committee addresses to mail a DVD.
  2. Supporting documents and letters of recommendation are NOT required.

The committee may seek nominations or receive nominations from filmmakers, film critics, and the general public. The AHA will also solicit nominations through discussion on the AHA Member Forum.

The review committee will only consider a film for which a screening copy can be obtained free of charge.

Please Note: Entries must be received by May 15, 2023, to be eligible for the 2023 competition. Entries will not be returned. Recipients will be announced on the AHA website in October 2023 and recognized during a ceremony at the January 2024 AHA annual meeting in San Francisco.

For questions, please contact the Prize Administrator.