Thursday, November 14, 2013

American Promise

For the documentary American Promise, filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson filmed their son, Idris, & his classmate, Seun, as the boys entered kindergarten at Dalton, a progressive Manhattan private school. They were among the few African Americans in the predominately white student body. For the next 13 years, the filmmakers made observational footage of them at school, at extracurricular sports & with their families.

The implicit context for the film is the Black Male Achievement Gap, a phenomenon in which black males do far worse academically than their white counterparts. Idris & Seun are neither poor students nor brilliant ones, but we see how fear of her son falling behind causes Idris's mother to frantically supervise his homework. Idris's father, a Stanford graduate, is equally fearful as he tries to goad his son with foreboding speeches. The film is a bit flaccid at nearly 2 and a half hours long. I did not leave feeling like I knew its subjects well, though I enjoyed a scene of the 2 boys discussing cardigans, which exposes a social gap between them. American Promise open in the Bay Area on November 15th.

§ American Promise (2013)
A Documentary Directed by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson
140 minutes

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