Power of the Dream Documentary

Power of the Dream, which had its world premiere at the 2024 Tribeca Festival, will be available on Prime Video on June 18, making filmmaker and producer Dawn Porter’s latest documentary more accessible to viewers. And, as any long-time WNBA fan (or player) will attest, media exposure is critical. Powerful stories, like thrilling basketball games, deserve to be seen. It may sound cliché, but Power of the Dream is a must-see film for everyone, not just sports aficionados.

Porter (Gideon’s Army, John Lewis: Good Trouble) is best known for directing and producing documentaries on revolutionary activists, overlooked historical events, and unknown heroes. She takes her keen sense of storytelling to the somewhat ambitious Power of the Dream. At its core, the sports documentary tells the inspiring story of how professional women’s basketball players used their WNBA platform to support now-Senator Raphael Warnock and defeat former Atlanta Dream co-owner and Senator Kelly Loeffler.

Power of the Dream is also entrusted with providing a brief history of the W, which turns 27 years old this season. The NBA-backed league, founded in 1996, was designed to capitalise on the women’s basketball fervour that had swept the nation following the UConn women’s team’s first NCAA title in 1995 and the United States’ gold medal win at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Given the documentary’s ambitious breadth — it needed to highlight significant periods in the league’s history while also emphasising that activism was always woven into the WNBA’s fabric — it’s most evocative of Porter’s award-winning Trapped. The 2016 documentary, which focuses on Mississippi’s last abortion facility, has a similarly broad scope. Porter, on the other hand, is able to describe a broad history while also highlighting a specific current example in both Trapped and Power of the Dream.

Porter’s Trilogy Films collaborated with a number of different companies to create the documentary, including TOGETHXR, a media firm created by Alex Morgan, Chloe Kim, Simone Manuel, and 4-time WNBA champion Sue Bird. “As female athletes, [we’re] judged based on everything except the game we’re playing,” Bird says in the documentary. “It’s never just been about basketball.”

While the WNBA’s league-wide organising to get Warnock elected represents the culmination of the players’ nearly three decades of activism, that tale is only a small part of what makes Power of the Dream so vital and captivating. Power of the Dream, punctuated by insights from sports writers and analysts Jemele Hill and Holly Rowe, provides another platform for some of the league’s most influential change-makers to speak out.

It works so well because these athlete-activists, such as WNBA champion Nneka Ogwumike, President of the WNBA Players Association, are also leading the movement with archival film. The documentary also makes a strong argument for a full-length film centred on the remarkable, yet genuinely modest Ogwumike, who has channelled her fellow players’ desire for equal rights, fair recompense, and social justice into historic change.

The W’s players not only appreciate their unique position to effect change, but they are also acutely aware of the work that must be done to make change happen, as evidenced by the WNBA’s 2020 season commitment to #SayHerName, Black Lives Matter, and Breonna Taylor. Before Colin Kaepernick knelt, whole WNBA teams, such as the Maya Moore-led Minnesota Lynx, risked their jobs to support the Black Lives Matter movement and speak out against police brutality and the murders of Black men like Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

As Hill points out, it was a historic moment, and many people still fail to recognise the WNBA’s ongoing advocacy. Lindsay Kagawa Colas, a sports agent, reflects on the league’s Black women, LGBT players, and genderfluid persons, saying, “Each one of those players wakes up every day and is inherently political.” The point is that, due to the social landscape, WNBA players cannot separate identity, sports, and political activism.

From defending Black women and LGBTQ+ people to being role models in the fight for equal pay, WNBA players have consistently proven those who doubt them wrong. Despite its huge breadth, the intimate and always inviting Power of the Dream manages to feel both current and timeless.

Power of the Dream debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. It will be available exclusively on Prime Video beginning June 18.

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