When Brooklynites Idris Brewster and Seun Summers were four years old, their respective parents enrolled them at Dalton, a prestigious private school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. For 14 years, Brewster’s mom and dad—Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster—filmed both African-American kids’ progress through the largely white institution. Seun switched to a Brooklyn public school around eighth grade; Idris stayed on at the academic hot spot, hoping to one day get accepted at Stanford. Life’s challenges, in the form of learning disabilities, deaths in the family and the usual growing (and growing-apart) pains, would throw them some serious curveballs. The national conversation on race would encompass both Barack Obama and Trayvon Martin while these boys turned into young men. And still, the cameras kept rolling.
Given the way this long-game documentary charts two diverging paths, comparisons to Hoop Dreams (1994) are inevitable—and not wholly undeserved. But while Stephenson and Brewster’s big-picture attempt to tackle a sociopolitical issue from the most personal of perspectives lacks the state-of-the-nation impact of that landmark doc, it doesn’t mean you won’t feel the pleasure of these kids’ triumphs, the pain of their tragedies or the pressures of ambition, affecting parents as much as students.
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