TELEVISION REVIEW / Promises broken on the streets of Philadelphia

'I AM A PROMISE' (C4), a film for True Stories, took its title from a bright and shiny song that the black children of Stanton Elementary School in Philadelphia sing as they leave to move on to high school. They clap and tap on the school steps, in perfect harmony like the feel-good ad for Coke, as they recite cuddly, self-indoctrinating lines like 'I am a great big bundle of potentiality'. The adventure of life beckons; anything is possible. But some things are probable. Crack. Crime. Rape. Murder. Otherwise known as the inner city.

This monumentally draining film went out at an apposite moment. The summer holidays approach, and now's the time to assess what it is that school has helped your child achieve since last September. Reading not up to scratch yet? Attention wavers at the end of the day? At Stanton, inculcating in each pupil a reluctance to punch classmates in the face seems to be the first hurdle.

Some never clear it, like Cornelius, who's on twice-daily medication to control his aggression. His father's a paraplegic. 'Got shot a coupla times in the back,' explained his mother, who was herself not above dishing out violent threats like leaflets. Cornelius couldn't have been more than 10, but you were nagged by the thought that they might as well come and take him away now.

An invitation to a documentary film- maker seems to have been the last throw of the dice for the school's saintly principal, Mrs Burney, a tough Caucasian cookie who, quite simply, goes to war every morning. By the end of the year she had concluded that her huge investment of time and emotion in an all but lost cause would never be matched financially by government. The last blow inflicted by this documentary was to bring news of her resignation, which rather undermined her claim that poverty does not equal incapability.

It is possible that children who don't get enough attention at home would react excessively to the idea of being filmed, but Alan Raymond's wobbly hand-held camera is as unintrusive as overt filming gets. When Burney went out into the syringe-strewn playground in the morning and lavished affection on her brood, one cynically supposed that she was playing up to the camera, but getting to know her soon disabused you.

The only significant distortion might have been perpetrated by Susan Raymond, who wrote and directed the film. In a year's vigil, there seems to have been little time for filming kids working obediently in classrooms. Most footage involved Burney arbitrating between kids like a boxing referee at a never-ending bout. The one success the film admitted to in the face of terrible results in literacy and comprehension tests was Nadia, whose parents are crack addicts, who was made homeless at eight, but whose creative writing is coming on a treat.

The ultimate threat to misbehaving boys seemed to be to call in their families, but most parents who came in looked as though they were reluctant to return to school themselves. The father of dysfunctional Anthony agreed to supervise his son's classwork, but never came back after the first day. Not long later, Anthony's grandmother became his guardian.

Wake Up With . . . (ITV), a spoof of daytime television, is from a school of sitcom with severe learning disabilities. Smoothie Jonathan (Nigel Planer) is worried about going bald, bitchy Libby (Susie Blake) is worried about getting fat, and they bicker incessantly. That they host a dire morning show together at least demonstrates that Andrew Nickolds has found a new home for a lot of old jokes. There are so few laughs, you might as well watch the real thing.

Thomas Sutcliffe is away

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat