American Promise


American Promise (2013)


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The American Promise journey began in 1999, when filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson enrolled their son Idris in the Dalton School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan after the private institution boldly strengthened its commitment to cultivating a diverse student body. Michèle and Joe decided to turn the camera on themselves to film the experiences of 5-year-old Idris and his best friend and classmate Seun. The documentary captures the stories of Idris, Seun, and their families from the first day of kindergarten all the way to their 2012 high school graduation. Over the 12 years, we see the boys and their families struggle with stereotypes and identity, navigate learning differences that later become diagnoses, and ultimately take increasingly divergent paths on their road to graduation. We also see a rare and vivid portrait of middle-class African-American families as the parents wrestle with doubts and angst over their sons' educational journey and both families grapple with how best to support their sons and interact with teachers and administrators. All of this is set against the backdrop of a persistent educational achievement gap that dramatically affects African-American boys at all socioeconomic levels across the country. (c) Impact

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Critic Reviews for American Promise

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (13)

A misbegotten project, as well as a missed opportunity.

Feb 3, 2014 | Rating: C | Full Review…
Top Critic

Not only provides illuminating insights into racial and cultural issues, but explores family dynamics common to all.

Nov 21, 2013 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

By the end you can't help but wonder whether it was a good idea to keep the youngsters under camera scrutiny for more than 12 years.

Nov 14, 2013 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

The fact that the pair pulls off the nearly 21 / 2-hour run time without making the audience tire of the subjects is a feat itself.

Oct 31, 2013 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

I'm glad I saw this movie because it allowed me to spend time with two engaging boys whose young lives are worth chronicling. But those lives can't bear the symbolic weight the filmmakers place on them. Nor should they have to.

Oct 25, 2013 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

A remarkable documentary, though only partially for the reason its creators intended.

Oct 24, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…

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