Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Here's Idris Elba's Response to Commentary That He's "Too Street" to Play James Bond Here's Idris Elba's Response to Commentary That He's "Too Street" to Play James Bond Carl Franklin Is Casting an Actor for His Tupac Bio (No Marcc Rose from 'Straight Outta Compton'?) Carl Franklin Is Casting an Actor for His Tupac Bio (No Marcc Rose from 'Straight Outta Compton'?) 'Dope' Is Heading Back to Theaters for a Second Run (Awards Season Contention, Perhaps?) 'Dope' Is Heading Back to Theaters for a Second Run (Awards Season Contention, Perhaps?) BET Launches Original Series “THE BET LIFE OF…” - Will Look at Musical Careers of Beyonce, Chris Brown, Janet Jackson, Nicki Minaj & Trey Songz BET Launches Original Series “THE BET LIFE OF…” - Will Look at Musical Careers of Beyonce, Chris Brown, Janet Jackson, Nicki Minaj & Trey Songz Trailer for Season 2 of 'Z Nation' (Kellita Smith Is Fierce on the Show!) Trailer for Season 2 of 'Z Nation' (Kellita Smith Is Fierce on the Show!) Will Smith Puts on His "Nigerian Accent" in First Trailer for NFL Drama 'Concussion' Will Smith Puts on His "Nigerian Accent" in First Trailer for NFL Drama 'Concussion' This "Faith-Based" Drama Is Giving 'Straight Outta Compton' a Run for Its Money This Weekend... This "Faith-Based" Drama Is Giving 'Straight Outta Compton' a Run for Its Money This Weekend... BET and TV One Will Go Head-to-Head Tonight With Original Movies Airing at the Exact Same Time BET and TV One Will Go Head-to-Head Tonight With Original Movies Airing at the Exact Same Time Lee Daniels' Richard Pryor Biopic Is Officially Ready to Go (Mike Epps, Eddie Murphy, Oprah Winfrey, Kate Hudson) Lee Daniels' Richard Pryor Biopic Is Officially Ready to Go (Mike Epps, Eddie Murphy, Oprah Winfrey, Kate Hudson) At Least 2 More Superhero Movies Are in Viola Davis' Future... At Least 2 More Superhero Movies Are in Viola Davis' Future... Watch 5 Clips from Regina King's Feature Directorial Debut 'Let The Church Say Amen' Starring Naturi Naughton Watch 5 Clips from Regina King's Feature Directorial Debut 'Let The Church Say Amen' Starring Naturi Naughton Righting a Past Wrong? Academy to Present Spike Lee with Honorary Oscar Righting a Past Wrong? Academy to Present Spike Lee with Honorary Oscar African-American Female Team Produce Indie Horror Film ‘The Dark Rite’ African-American Female Team Produce Indie Horror Film ‘The Dark Rite’ Viola Davis Says She Will Star in a Film Adaptation of 'Fences' Directed by Denzel Washington Viola Davis Says She Will Star in a Film Adaptation of 'Fences' Directed by Denzel Washington "This Is a Relationship" - Watch Michael Ealy Frighten Sanaa Lathan in Tense First Clip From 'The Perfect Guy' "This Is a Relationship" - Watch Michael Ealy Frighten Sanaa Lathan in Tense First Clip From 'The Perfect Guy' Vin Diesel Says He's Returning for a 'xXx' Threequel - Filming to Start in December Vin Diesel Says He's Returning for a 'xXx' Threequel - Filming to Start in December Updates on Steve McQueen's "Epic" Series Centered on a Black Community in London, Over 3 Decades Updates on Steve McQueen's "Epic" Series Centered on a Black Community in London, Over 3 Decades Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

Sundance 2013 Review: 'American Promise'

Shadow and Act By Zeba Blay | Shadow and Act January 28, 2013 at 10:04AM

Sundance 2013 Review: 'American Promise'
1
Idris Brewster and Oluwaseun Summers in 'American Promise'
Michèle Stephenson Idris Brewster and Oluwaseun Summers in 'American Promise'

Recent 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.

Premiering later this year 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 the perhaps more significant potential to spark a wider discussion about an issue that has plagued the black community in America for a long time.

Zeba Blay is a Ghanaian-born film and culture writer based in New York. She is a contributor to Huffington Post, Africa Style Daily, and Slant Magazine. She co-hosts the weekly podcast Two Brown Girls, and runs a personal movie blog, Film Memory. Follow her on Twitter @zblay.

This article is related to: American Promise


Shadow & ActNewsletter