American Promise

  • American Promise
Genre : Biography
Type : Documentary
Original title :
Principal country concerned : Column : Cinema/tv
Year of production : 2013
Format : Feature
Running time : 180 (in minutes)

A 13 year documentary journey following two african-american boys from kindergarten through high school graduation at one of the most prestigious private schools in the country.

AMERICAN PROMISE spans 13 years as Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, middle-class African-American parents in Brooklyn, N.Y., turn their cameras on their son, Idris, and his best friend, Seun, who make their way through one of the most prestigious private schools in the country. Chronicling the boys' divergent paths from kindergarten through high school graduation at Manhattan's Dalton School, this provocative, intimate documentary presents complicated truths about America's struggle to come of age on issues of race, class and opportunity.

Filmmakers: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson

Note from filmmakers and parents:

Even with prominent role models like President Obama, many people still clutch their bags tighter when they see a black man approaching.

Since the start of first grade, all the way up to high school graduation, we have turned our cameras on our son, his best friend and our families to take a firsthand look at the complexities that black boys face growing up today.

AMERICAN PROMISE holds a magnifying glass to our family's personal journey. It shows how each of us - as parents, teachers and members of a larger community - plays a role in shaping the identities of our nation's black boys and why acknowledging this dynamic is an important step toward addressing achievement and their opportunities for success.
Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster

Winner, U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award, 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

A co-production of Rada Film Group, ITVS and POV's Diverse Voices Project, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

Part of American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen, made possible by CPB.

Produced in association with American Documentary | POV.

A co-presentation with the National Black Programming Consortium.

To coincide with the POV documentary, Spiegel & Grau will publish PROMISES KEPT: Raising Black Boys to Succeed in School and in Life-Lessons Learned from the 12-Year American Promise Project, by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson with Hilary Beard. Where American Promise raises provocative questions, PROMISES KEPT delivers answers, combining insights Brewster and Stephenson derived from their own experiences with the latest research on closing the black male achievement gap, providing readers with an unprecedented toolkit full of practical strategies from infancy through the teenaged years.

Theaters: Opens in New York, October 18, 2013.


  • Arterial network
  • Media, Sports and Entertainment Group (MSE)
  • Gens de la Caraïbe
  • Groupe 30 Afrique
  • Alliance Française VANUATU
  • Zimbabwe : Culture Fund Of Zimbabwe Trust
  • RDC : Groupe TACCEMS
  • Rwanda : Positive Production
  • Togo : Kadam Kadam
  • Niger : ONG Culture Art Humanité
  • Collectif 2004 Images
  • Africultures Burkina-Faso
  • Bénincultures / Editions Plurielles
  • Africiné
  • Afrilivres

With the support of