American Promise
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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,… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 70%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"A misbegotten project, as well as a missed opportunity."
‑ John Anderson, Newsday
"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."
‑ Stephanie Merry, Washington Post
"Doesn't hold your hand as it reaches what it's conveying. It's a difficult doc that plays easy."
‑ Christopher Campbell, Nonfics
"Because Brewster and Stephenson have had the great courage to expose their own mistakes and excesses along the way, the film is revelatory as an embedded report from the front lines of parenting."
‑ Jennifer Dworkin, Film Comment Magazine
"While they didn't set out to make a film about what newspaper columnists refer to as the "black male achievement gap," Brewster and Stephenson have done just that, and it's hard to imagine a more penetrating and powerful one."
‑ Godfrey Cheshire,
"Not only provides illuminating insights into racial and cultural issues, but explores family dynamics common to all."
‑ Peter Keough, Boston Globe
"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."
‑ Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor
"f Idris is different because he's African American, he stands out even more because he has a camera crew following him to class."
‑ Radheyan Simonpillai, NOW Toronto
"Repetitive, overlong and, worst of all, not illuminating enough."
‑ Avi Offer, NYC Movie Guru
"While American Promise often feels frustratingly unfocused and random, compensates to some degree with equally random details about growing up in urban America."
‑ Mike D'Angelo, The Dissolve
"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."
‑ Walter V. Addiego, San Francisco Chronicle
"A remarkable documentary, though only partially for the reason its creators intended."
‑ Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
"Says a lot about race, color, class, competition, and plain human nature in success-driven contemporary urban America."
‑ Kelly Vance, East Bay Express
"Raising and educating middle-class African-American boys is seen first-hand, cinema verité style, over 9 years in fitful, occasionally insightful, and intimately revealing."
‑ Nora Lee Mandel,
More reviews for American Promise on Rotten Tomatoes