American Promise

Reva and David Logan Grand Jury Award 2013


American Promise follows two African American boys from their first days of kindergarten through their graduation from high school. For over fourteen years, filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson filmed their son Idris and his best friend, Seun. Both children start at New York’s prestigious Dalton School, but circumstances set them on separate paths. This strikingly personal document teases out the complications of receiving a private education—the remarkably high stakes of investing thousands of dollars in primary school with the hope of attending a top-tier university. What does it mean to receive a good education, and how does being a minority student influence that education? We find ourselves both inside the classroom and at home with equal intimacy. The directors approach arguments, celebrations, and even grief with such candor that at times it’s hard to believe that it’s their lives we’re watching on the screen. The rigorous editing of their story allows this document to stand as a broader examination of what it means to fulfill one’s potential.  ST


Michèle Stephenson, Joe Brewster


Michèle Stephenson, Joe Brewster


Mary Manhardt, Erin Casper, Andrew Siwoff


Errol Webber, Alfredo Alcantara, Margaret Byrne, Jon Stuyvesant

Release Year


Festival Year



United States

Run Time

138 minutes