POV’s ‘American Promise’ Explores Race, Class and Opportunity, Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 During Black History Month
Groundbreaking Film Follows Two African-American Boys on a 13-Year Journey
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 Dalton, one of the most prestigious private schools in the country. Chronicling the boys’ divergent paths from kindergarten through high school graduation, this provocative, intimate documentary presents complicated truths about America’s struggle to come of age on issues of race, class and opportunity.
American Promise, winner of a Special Jury Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, has its national broadcast premiered on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. You can watch the film on POV’s website, www.pbs.org/pov/americanpromise , from Feb. 4- March 6, 2014.
Coinciding with the documentary, Spiegel & Grau has published PROMISES KEPT: Raising Black Boys to Succeed in School and in Life , by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson with Hilary Beard. Where American Promise raises provocative questions, Promises Kept delivers answers, combining insights Joe and Michèle derived from their own experiences with the latest research on closing the black male achievement gap.
American Promise is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen , a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help communities identify and implement solutions to improve high school graduation rates. Public television stations around the country are planning events to engage their communities in dialogue around key issues and solutions raised in the film.
“All American families want to give their children the opportunity to succeed. But the truth is, opportunity is just the first step, particularly for families raising black boys. We hope American Promise shines a light on these issues, ” says Stephenson. Adds Brewster, “Our goal is to empower boys, their parents and educators to pursue educational opportunities, especially to help close the black male achievement gap.”
In addition to streaming the full film online, POV’s interactive website, features an original video series about black male achievement, an excerpt from the book PROMISES KEPT, interviews with the filmmakers, graphics to share on social media and guides for bringing the film into the classroom and community.
American Promise is a co-production of Rada Film Group, ITVS and POV’s Diverse Voices Project (DVP). ITVS and DVP receive funding from CPB.
About the Filmmakers
Michèle Stephenson, Co-producer/Co-director
A graduate of McGill University and Columbia Law School, Michèle Stephenson uses her background in critical studies, race and human rights to inform her documentary work. Her Panamanian and Haitian heritage has also fueled her passion to tackle stories on communities of color and human rights. An early pioneer in the Web 2.0 revolution, Stephenson used video and the Internet to structure human rights campaigns and train people from around the globe in video Internet advocacy. Her work has appeared on PBS, Showtime, MTV and other outlets. Stephenson’s honors include the Silverdocs Diversity Award and the Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film and Digital Media.
Joe Brewster, Co-producer/Co-director
Joe Brewster and his partner, Michèle Stephenson, have produced and directed award-winning feature documentaries and narrative films. Brewster is a Harvard- and Stanford-educated psychiatrist who specializes in organizational analysis, the use of psychoanalytical principals to understand and improve organizations. He moved to New York City in 1985 to pursue media studies in the service of social change. In 1992, Brewster sold his first screenplay to the Jackson/McHenry group under the Warner Bros. imprint. In 1996, he wrote and directed The Keeper, which was an official selection in the dramatic narrative competition section of the Sundance Film Festival and garnered numerous national and international awards, including an Independent Spirit Award nomination.
Produced by American Documentary, Inc. and now in its 26th season on PBS, the award-winning POV is the longest-running showcase on American television to feature the work of today’s best independent documentary filmmakers. POV has brought more than 365 acclaimed documentaries to millions nationwide. POV films have won every major film and broadcasting award, including 32 Emmys, 15 George Foster Peabody Awards, 11 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three Academy Awards® and the Prix Italia. In 2012, POV achieved a new milestone, winning five News & Documentary Emmy® Awards. Since 1988, POV has pioneered the art of presentation and outreach using independent nonfiction media to build new communities in conversation about today’s most pressing social issues.