Joe Brewster, M.D. is an American psychiatrist and filmmaker who directs and produces fiction films, documentaries and new media focused on the experiences of communities of color.
A native of South Central Los Angeles, Joe Brewster graduated from Crenshaw High School and received a B.A. in Biology from Stanford University. Brewster went on to Harvard Medical School, where he received his medical degree in 1978 and completed his residency in psychiatry and neurology at McLean Hospital in 1982. After completion of a fellowship in Institutional analysis, the systematic study of people’s collective behaviors in institutions, with Dr. Ries Vanderpol, Brewster enrolled in the documentary production program at the New School for Social Research in New York City with a goal to use his documentary film to positively impact institutional behavior.
Brewster wrote and directed his feature film debut The Keeper in 1996, a psychological thriller rooted in his experiences working as a psychiatrist with prisoners and correctional officers at the Brooklyn House of Detention. The Keeper debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and Brewster was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award in the Someone to Watch Award category. Brewster’s follow up to The Keeper, The Killing Zone, was inspired by a year he spent working on a Mobile Crisis Team in Harlem, New York.
With partner Michèle Stephenson he founded the Rada Film Group with a mission: to tell stories about communities that have been neglected by the mainstream media and contribute to the American narrative mosaic. Together, while raising a family in Brooklyn, New York, Brewster and Stephenson have directed and produced documentary and fiction films. In 2008, they directed Slaying Goliath, a documentary that follows 10 days in the life of their son's fifth grade basketball team from Harlem, New York as they experience culture clash at a national tournament in suburban Florida. Brewster and Stephenson also produced and directed Faces of Change, which follows five activists on five continents fighting racism in their communities.
In 1999, Brewster and Stephenson set out to document the experiences of their son and his best friend from the time both boys entered kindergarten at a private Manhattan prep school through their upcoming high school graduation in 2012. Their goal was to closely examine the coming of age and school experiences of two middle class African American boys at a predominantly white school in the context of the persistent U.S. achievement gap. American Promise is slated for broadcast on POV in 2013. Brewster and Stephenson are Sundance Institute Fellows, Tribeca All Access Fellows and the recipients of the Tribeca Gucci Fund for Documentary Film for the 12-year longitudinal documentary. American Promise is the centerpiece of a transmedia engagement campaign that uses mobile web and interactive technology to help propel young men of color to success.
American Promise premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Special Jury Prize for Excellence in Filmmaking and was also part of the 2013 New York Film Festival's Main Slate. American Promise has received the Full Frame Festival Grand Jury Prize, Hot Springs Film Festival Best Documentary, and the PUMA Britdoc Impact Award. Brewster and his wife were also honored with an NAACP Image Award for their companion book, Promises Kept: Raising Black Boys to Succeed in School and in Life.
- The Keeper
- The Killing Zone
- Faces of Change
- Slaying Goliath
- Coming Home: The Dry Storm
- Haiti: One Day, One Destiny
- American Promise
- Rayman, Graham. "The Hoop Dreams of 11-Year-Olds", Village Voice, April 3, 2009.
- Anderson, John. "Intelligent 'Keeper' Defies Conventional Typecasting", Los Angeles Times, January 16, 1998.
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