John E. O'Connor Film Award
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 honorific award seeks to recognize outstanding interpretations of history through the medium of film or video and may be awarded in each of two categories: Dramatic Feature and Documentary.
This award is presented in the form of a certificate. 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.
Nominated films and videos will be assessed according to the following criteria:
- Stimulation of Interest in History: The production should arouse interest in the past and encourage viewers to ask questions about historical interpretations.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dramatic feature and documentary films and videos (including web-based) will be considered for the award.
- Films or videos must be in English or have English-language subtitles or dubbing.
- Films or videos must have been copyrighted or first screened or broadcast in 2016 to be eligible for the 2017 award.
- 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.
- AHA members will nominate films and videos through the Member Forum on AHA Communities by May 15. The committee may also seek nominations or receive nominations from filmmakers, film critics, and the general public.
- Filmmakers should send nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org and must submit one copy of each entry in DVD or a free and universally accessible online streaming format to each of the committee members. In the case of web-based videos with free access, functioning URLs must be provided.
- The review committee will only consider a film for which a screening copy can be obtained free of charge.
- Nominations must specify the category—Documentary or Dramatic Feature—for which the film should be considered.
- Entries will not be returned.
Recipients will be announced on the AHA website in October 2017 and recognized during a ceremony at the January 2018 AHA annual meeting in Washington, DC.
For questions, please contact the Prize Administrator.
Contact Information for Committee Members
If submitting DVDs, filmmakers should send one copy to each committee member.
2016 O’Connor Film Award
Dramatic Feature: Son of Saul
László Nemes, director; Gábor Rajna and Gábor Sipos, producers (Laokoon Filmgroup)
Son of Saul is a powerful and visually arresting film that takes viewers inside the death camps of the Holocaust. While in their quest to be marketable filmmakers often clean up parts of this terrible history, Nemes’s film is brutal in its portrayal of brutality. In this way, the film stands apart from Hollywood treatments, favoring complexity over clarity.
Documentary: No Más Bebés
Renee Tajima-Peña, director; Virginia Espino, producer (Moon Canyon Films)
No Más Bebés is a provocative historical documentary about the involuntary sterilizations of Mexican immigrant women in the 1960s and 1970s. Filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña uses historical footage, oral histories, and the written archive in order to tell and create this story before our very eyes. The film reveals how history is documented, but also how it is obscured, often at the expense of women, people of color, and American society as a whole.