Oscar-Winning Director Oliver Stone to Judge Speak Truth To Power Video Contest

(October 21, 2015 | New York, NY) The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), including locals throughout the country and spearheaded by the New York State United Teachers, joined with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights today to launch the fifth annual nationwide Speak Truth To Power Student Video Contest. This year’s entries will be judged by a celebrity panel that includes Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone.

The video competition, conducted in partnership with the Tribeca Film Institute, invites students to create a three to five-minute video examining a human rights violation and profiling the defenders who are fighting to protect these rights. The contest builds upon Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ Speak Truth To Power human rights curriculum, taught to millions of students in schools across the United States and around the world.

“Tragically, we are witnessing a terrible rise of human rights violations and atrocities throughout the world. Producing a video exposing a human rights injustice and shining a light on those struggling to restore equality and justice gives students a creative way to apply their knowledge and teach the world a lesson in speaking truth to power,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.

“Past winners have demonstrated the impact this contest has on young film makers and their classmates,” said John Heffernan, Executive Director of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ Speak Truth To Power program. “Once again, we are thrilled to be able to expand our reach by partnering with the AFT in key cities throughout the U.S.—inspiring even more students to identify with some of the most courageous people on the planet.”

This fall, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and its partners will host training sessions with teaching artists from the Tribeca Film Institute for teachers in cities across the country who are interested in presenting the 2016 Speak Truth To Power video contest to their classes.

Confirmed cities where the training will take place include Chicago, IL; New Orleans, LA; Boston, MA; Albuquerque, NM; Saint Paul and Minneapolis, MN; as well as the Florida Panhandle and Broward County, FL. The deadline for entries is February 21, 2016. The contest is open to students in grades 6 through 12; no prior filmmaking experience is required.

The 2012 inaugural grand prize went to the students of the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES for their documentary on Wangari Maathai’s Greenbelt Movement in Kenya and the innovative plastic bag recycling program they launched in her honor. In 2013, the grand prize went to students of the Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn, who made a film about the work of sexual slavery and trafficking activist Juliana Dogbadzi of Ghana and also created a web series dedicated to raising awareness of sex trafficking and slavery. In 2014, grand prize went to film makers from Southeast Middle School in Los Angeles, who profiled the work of Russian domestic violence activist Marina Pisklakova and last year the grand prize went to two seniors from Bloomfield Tech in Bloomfield, NJ who examined the life of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Elie Wiesel.

In addition to Stone and the leaders of the sponsoring organizations, the 2016 Judges Panel will include filmmaker Rory Kennedy, actors Alfre Woodard and Matt McCoy, and Kerry Kennedy and Randi Weingarten. Additional details including entry instructions can be found at Winning videos will be featured on the Speak Truth To Power website and the grand prize video will be shown at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival.

The human rights curriculum, which includes over 50 teacher-developed lesson plans for students in grades 6-12, is based on Kerry Kennedy’s book, Speak Truth To Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World.