American Promise is on Kickstarter
NYWIFT member Nicole London is the Associate Producer for Rada Film Group's documentary, American Promise. In addition, NYWIFT member Caroline de Fontaine-Stratton is the film's Project Manager. The film's Kickstarter campaign has begun.
Rada Film Group: http://radafilm.com/
In 1999, filmmaker parents Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson begin documenting the experiences of their 5-year-old son Idris and his best friend Seun, two African American boys starting kindergarten at the renowned independent Dalton School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan at the early stages of the school’s push to become more diverse. Seun’s parents, Stacey and Tony, fellow first-generation African American middle-class professionals, agreed to be filmed through the boys’ high school graduation in 2012. This unprecedented longitudinal documentary reveals the life-changing experiences of Idris, Seun, and their families as the boys come of age before our eyes.
As the early years unfold, the families face challenges they didn’t anticipate. The camera witnesses the boys’ fluctuations in self-esteem and early hints of learning differences that later become diagnoses. In middle school, they become aware of racial code switching and manifest some stereotype anxiety as they alternately lose and gain academic confidence. Along the way Joe, Michèle, Stacey and Tony try different approaches to supporting their sons.
By high school, Seun is asked to leave The Dalton School for academic underperformance. He enters an Afrocentric middle-ranked public high school in Brooklyn. Persuaded by the school to stay through high school, Idris continues at Dalton. Through the high school years we see the effects of the increasingly divergent paths the boys take on their road to manhood.
The specific experiences of Idris and Seun are intimate illustrations of the society-wide factors at work for African American males in educational settings that are often complicated by race and class. The filmmakers are also central subjects of the documentary, turning the cameras on themselves as they inevitably compare their sons’ experiences to their own formative ones. By weaving these generational threads together, American Promise provides an unprecedented window into questions facing African American families today, and into what constitutes progress in diversity education.
About Rada Film Group
Michele Stephenson and Joe Brewster are a husband and wife filmmaker team who have struggled to maintain the balance between their artwork and raising two children in Brooklyn. Brewster is a physician and psychiatrist with two award-winning narrative films on his resume: The Keeper (Sundance Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Black Filmmakers' Hall of Fame) and The Killing Zone. Stephenson is a human rights attorney who has produced critically acclaimed documentaries on human rights and race relations. Her more recent documentary film, Faces of Change (Locarno International Film Festival, SilverDocs) was broadcasted on PBS.
NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
Last updated: Mar. 14, 2012