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Critical Acclaim for ‘American Promise’ – Now Playing in Select Theaters

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Read what critics and journalists have to say about the POV film that will air on Monday, February 3, 2014. American Promise is playing in theaters across the country this month and is opening in Los Angeles today. In the coming weeks see the film in Washington DC, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit and more!

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.

“A courageous and groundbreaking film that speaks volumes about the ways in which members of America’s most segregated and subjugated minority group struggle to thrive in environments in which they are few.”
- Brandon Harris, Filmmaker 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, RogerEbert.com

“[An] intimate look at how particular families deal with the great parental challenge of shepherding their children through the all-important educational experience.”
- Kenneth Turan, LA Times

“An intimate look at what it’s like to be young, black and male in a largely white private school. Riveting…Idris and Seun…are on-camera naturals…Condensing more than a decade…into a two-hour movie is a tall order, but American Promise succeeds in touching on a wealth of subjects.”
- Geoff Berkshire, Variety

“A hard-edged and inspiring account on how African American males can attain academic success.”
- Duane Byrge, The Hollywood Reporter

“American Promise is more than a documentary; it is part of a bigger, ongoing movement about changing perceptions of — and behavior and values with respect to — young African-American males in our society.”
- Tracie Lewis, Documentary Magazine

“American Promise is compelling both for its intimate focus on the lives of these middle-class families and in what it has to say about the struggle for identity of even the most talented African-American boys in a society that still often fears and dismisses them.”
- Jennifer Dworkin, Film Comment

“Substantive and emotionally epic, one of the most thoughtful and nourishing films I’ve seen for this year’s Festival.”
- Daniel Fienberg, HitFlix

“In his State of the Union address this week, President Barack Obama spoke about making the American Dream possible for everyone. He noted that minorities still face challenges that other Americans do not. The documentary American Promise explores race, class and opportunity in America…Tough…heartbreaking.”
- Anne-Marie Green, CBS News “Up to the Minute”

“As the film progresses, we see it’s not just academics that can be challenges, but issues of race and class…Idris is treading a fine line between two vastly different communities…Michèle Stephenson turned the camera on her family and the Summers’ so other black families might learn from their experiences.”
Karen Grigsby Bates, “Morning Edition,” NPR

“Dazzling…[Subjects] Idris and Seun turn out to be adorable little boys who become impressive young men. More importantly — and perhaps unintentionally — filmmakers Joe and Michèle make for fascinating subjects as well…American Promise…offers plenty to ponder.”
Stephanie Merry, The Washington Post

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.

Update February 6, 2014: New critical acclaim around the POV broadcast premiere has been added to this post.

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POV Staff
POV Staff
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 300 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.