We Could Be King directed by Judd Ehrlich, is a documentary of life at Martin Luther King High School in Philadelphia. The documentary follows the fallout of massive school district closures and chronicles the academic struggle of student-athletes.
Student-athletes often struggle to find the balance between their love of sports and making the grade, and need guidance from teachers, counselors and parents. According to 2011-2012 Scholarship Stats statistics, an estimated 7.8 percent of high school male football players make the transition from high school to the college level.
In reality, the documentary, which premiered April 23 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, could have been filmed in any city. School closings seemed to be the norm in Chicago, which suffered the closure of 50 schools, and New York, where 17 district schools closed in 2013. In March 2013, the School Reform Commission in Philadelphia voted to close 23 schools.
In the midst of the chaos and uncertainty, volunteer coach Kelly Cottle, and a few other coaches, convinced several Germantown High School players to transfer to MLK. A rivalry between the two schools brewed for decades and it took more than Ed Dunn, the school’s composed new football coach, to calm things down.
The documentary showed what can happen when two schools join forces for a cause. The King Cougar football team accomplished their goal because they were unshakably committed to becoming the best in their league – despite the disruption in their education. It took several wins, and a Public League Championship, for them to prove to the entire student body, and the community, that they were determined to excel.
The documentary also portrayed part of the rich history that surrounds Germantown, whose doors closed just one year shy of its centennial celebration. “Schools can’t exist apart from the community,” said Shelly Yanoff, a retired child advocate, who came to support students at the documentary’s premiere at the school on April 24. Several Germantown and MLK alumni and parents praised Ehrlich for bringing an inspiring message to the screen. Reactions from others begged the question, “Does it really take a village to raise a king?”