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Black Boys at Prep School: 'American Promise' Directors Discuss 13-Year Filmmaking Journey (Broadcast Debut Tonight On PBS)

  • By Jai Tiggett
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  • February 3, 2014 10:56 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Black Boys at Prep School: 'American Promise' Directors Discuss 13-Year Filmmaking Journey (Broadcast Debut Tonight On PBS)

Chicago Screenings Of ‘American Promise’ In Nov. 11/22-27

  • By Sergio
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  • October 25, 2013 11:16 AM
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  • 0 Comments
We have certainly been profiling the new documentary American Promise and no doubt it’s because it’s one of the most important documentaries of the year.

Review: 'American Promise' Presents A Generally Unbiased, Panoramic View Of A Complex Issue

  • By Zeba Blay
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  • October 17, 2013 3:32 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Winner of the US Documentary Special Jury Award at Sundance, American Promise is a deeply personal examination of the American education system, focusing specifically on how it affects young black boys. Directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson embarked upon a twelve year journey in making the film, chronicling the arduous academic and emotional progress of their son, Idris, and his friend Seun. From ages six to eighteen, we watch Idris and Seun navigate the competitive New York private school world that their middle-class families believe to be the only hope of them succeeding. Both families enroll their sons at the Dalton School, an upper crust preparatory institution known for producing powerful politicians, journalists, businessmen, and entertainers. For the rest of the film, Brewster and Stephenson fix an unflinching eye on the boys as they struggle with high expectations despite severe learning disabilities, as well as the unpleasant realities of being the lone black face in a sea of white students. The most intriguing dimension of the film is indeed the social and racial issues it brings up. Idris is teased for “talking white,” by other black children on the playground, and proves an oddity to the white kids he goes to school with, his very name a source of novel curiosity and ridicule. Seun, who gradually grows into a well-built, moody young man before our eyes, grapples with people, including his instructors, being “afraid” of him because of the way he looks. While it has the strong potential to become a preachy “message” film, American Promise does not necessarily push an agenda. Its filmmakers have been very vocal about their commitment to the cause of helping young black boys succeed (not much is said of black girls, unfortunately), but that cause is presented with a generally unbiased, panoramic view of a complex issue. We’re allowed to see both the good and both sides of their experiment - often times the two young subjects are shed in not the best light, as are their families, who in several instances come off as more obsessive and demanding than supportive. Set to eventually make its broadcast premiere on PBS, American Promise does not purport to answer any of the countless questions about class, race, and gender politics that it raises, but it does hold perhaps more significant potential to spark a wider discussion about an issue that has plagued the black community in America for a long time.

Trailer + Opening Cities For 'American Promise' (On Black Male Achievement In Education)

  • By Tambay A. Obenson
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  • July 31, 2013 6:14 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Earlier this month, Impact Partners (The Cove, How to Survive a Plague, Hell and Back Again, Detropia, Pandora’s Promise) announced that it will release Joe Brewster's and Michèle Stephenson's acclaimed feature documentary, American Promise, in theaters, starting October 18.Today, the film's first theatrical release trailer, as well as the cities in which it'll open, have been released and follow below. American Promise will open first in New York City on October 18, followed by releases in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Atlanta, the Bay Area, Chicago and Detroit shortly after.This personal film, a 13-year journey, follows the directors’ son (Idris) and his best friend (seun), from their first day of kindergarten through high school graduation, and how their lives diverge, as they navigate an elite, performance-driven, ivy league New York City prep school in a world still largely segregated by race, class and culture.