In 1999, filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson turned the camera on themselves and began filming their five-year-old son, Idris, and his best friend, Seun, as they started kindergarten at the prestigious Dalton School just as the private institution was committing to diversify its student body. Their cameras continued to follow both families for another 12 years as the paths of the two boys diverged—one continued private school while the other pursued a very different route through the public education system.
American Promise is an epic and groundbreaking documentary charged with the hope that every child can reach his or her full potential and contribute to a better future for our country. It calls into question commonly held assumptions about educational access and what factors really influence academic performance. Stephenson and Brewster deliver a rare, intimate, and emotional portrait of black middle-class family life, humanizing the unique journey of African-American boys as they face the real-life hurdles society poses for young men of color, inside and outside the classroom. - S. F.
About the Directors
Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson’s first feature film, The Keeper, premiered at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival and garnered an Independent Spirit Award nomination. Brewster is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, and Stephenson is a Columbia Law School graduate. Together they founded the Rada Film Group to create compelling documentaries about the complexities of multicultural America. American Promise’s longitudinal experiment was conceived as a compromise to continue the film group’s mission while simultaneously raising a family.
Cast and Credits
Directors: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson
Executive Producers: Simon Kilmurry, Dan Cogan
Producers: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson
Associate Producer: Nicole London
Cinematographers: Errol Webber, Alfredo Alcantara, Margaret Byrne, Jon Stuyvesant
Editors: Erin Casper, Mary Manhardt, Andrew Siwoff
Composer: Miriam Cutler
Contact: Gregory S. Jones / (718) 222-4041