“We Could Be King,” the 2014 documentary showcasing the Martin Luther King High School Cougars football team’s journey to its first-ever Public League championship, has been nominated for a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Documentary.
Premiering at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, the 80-minute profile follows the school’s merging with now-shuttered Germantown High School through the lens of the football team. The two schools, former rivals, had to come together in the aftermath of Germantown’s closing — both in the classrooms and hallways and on the football field.
“My intention was for people to care about a world they might not have known about,” said Director Judd Ehrlich. A two-time Emmy nominee, the New York native moved to Philadelphia to spend four months filming sweltering practices, classroom bullying, family dinners and every touchdown of the season.
Stealing every scene with his thick beard and primal screams, head coach Ed Dunn wasn’t even on the payroll for half of the season. A former math teacher at Germantown High, the then-27 year old volunteered to revitalize MLK’s football program, leading the Cougars from a two-year losing streak to the city title.
“When you’re given things, you want to give back,” Dunn said. “Hopefully, I’ve motivated these guys to give to maybe 10 other people and we’ll see that ripple effect.”
Ehrlich said the documentary has also been selected by the American Film Showcase — a program run by the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for spreading global diplomacy through film.
“It was remarkable to watch the film making team come together like the football team to accomplish this goal,” Ehrlich said. “And I’m glad that now with the nomination; more people will get to see it.”
Sponsored by DICK’S Sporting Goods as part of the company’s “$25 million multi-year commitment to support youth athletics programs,” the film aired on ESPN2 and ran in theaters in New York City and Los Angeles.
The success of “We Could Be King” led to Ehrlich and his team returning to West Oak Lane last summer to film “Hell Week,” a five-part miniseries that aired on SportsCenter detailing the intense practices leading up to the team’s new season.
The 36th Annual Sports Emmy Awards ceremony takes place in New York City on May 5.
“We Could Be King” is currently available on Netflix.