Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson’s ragged, indifferent and sometimes exasperating home movie “American Promise” gains its modest savor from more than twelve years of observing their son and one of his friends through the video camera as they make their way through Manhattan’s exclusive, private, three-quarters-white Dalton School, from kindergarten to college years. One of the best moments in the decade on view may be the mic-scraping opening, introducing its premise of following two black kids through school years, when their son, now grown, says, “What’s the difference, ehhhhh, who cares?” Its interminable ordinariness impresses. What intelligence shall we bring away? “I feel like a pretty good person and I feel like I’m going places.” The ubiquitous score informs you what you should feel. The list of fiscal sponsors is extensive, including the Ford Foundation, CPB and POV. 132m. DCP digital. (Ray Pride)
“American Promise” opens Friday, November 21 at Siskel. There are no Thanksgiving shows. The filmmakers will appear Friday, Saturday and at the 2pm Sunday show. A trailer is below.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.