A new documentary premiering on HBO next month showcases the annual MLK Oratorical Festival that is now a 40-year tradition in the Oakland Unified School District.
The film, titled We Are The Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest, was executive produced by Oscar winner and Oakland native Mahershala Ali, and directed and produced by Emmy Award-winning children’s series director Amy Schatz. As KPIX reports, the documentary was shot during the lead-up to last year's 40th anniversary fest, and it will air on HBO on February 18 at 7 p.m.
The festival was founded in 1978 by onetime Oakland school principal Donald Oliver as a way to honor Dr. King's memory and to encourage children to find inspiration in his words and oratory to create their own. Each year, hundreds of children, from kindergartners through 12th grade, create and rehearse speeches hoping to eventually make it to the finals of the competition.
"As a Bay Area native, it’s an honor to celebrate these extraordinary young voices and shine light on the wonderful educators and community that supports them," said Ali in a statement, per the Mercury News.
"It’s amazing what’s coming out of the hearts and minds of young people today,” says Oratorical Fest producer Awele Makeba. "They’re profound and they’re intelligent and they have a vision, and given the opportunity to share and to listen, there’s so much to learn."
Per the film description: "Through interviews with the contestants and scenes of rehearsals and performances, the film reveals the deep connection the students make between King’s words and the world they live in."
In addition to profiling and following the student competitors, We Are the Dream talks to the parents, teachers, and judges who help to encourage the kids during the festival season.
Non-HBO subscribers can also find the doc next month on HBO Go.