Knights of the South Bronx
Ted Danson stars in the inspiring true story of an inner-city teacher who taught
his students to be champions. Directed by Allen Hughes. World Premiere Tuesday,
December 6th, 2005, 8-10 pm ET/PT. Danson stars as English teacher David MacEnulty
in this true story of heroism and inspiration. It depicts one man’s struggle
to better the lives of underprivileged children from the South Bronx. By teaching
these children chess, he transforms their lives and the lives of thousands of
other kids, their families, and their neighborhoods. A&E Network has co-produced
the film with Fox Television Studios (FtvS).
A&E Network reaches more than 88 million homes, bringing viewers a diverse
mix of programming ranging from critically acclaimed original series and movies,
to innovative documentaries, to the Emmy Award-winning Biography series,
to dramatic specials, feature film presentations, and contemporary performances.
Emmy Award winner Ted Danson has enjoyed a career spanning television, film
and the stage and is beloved for his portrayal of womanizing, recovering alcoholic
barkeep Sam Malone in Cheers (1982-93) and as the crusty physician Becker (1998-2004),
His feature film credits include The Onion Field, Three Men and a Baby, Body
Heat, Creepshow, Cousins, Made in America, Dad, Mumford and Saving Private Ryan.
Synopsis of Knights of the South Bronx
When Richard Mason, a successful, middle-aged suburban New Yorker, is fired
from his job, he returns to his first love: teaching. He gets a temporary job
as a substitute teacher for a fourth grade class in a rough, inner-city South
Bronx school. The kids are tough and unruly, but he quickly sees some glimmers
On the first day of class, Richard is confronted by plenty of attitude from
his student Jimmy, who is filled with anger and who sees no point in school.
Renee's little brother Dawson comes to class after morning kindergarten is over;
Richard realizes Renee baby sits Dawson half of each day, because there is nowhere
else for Dawson to go.
Jimmy is forced by a gang to steal a bike. When he almost gets caught, he drops
the bike and runs to hide amid a crowd of people watching and playing chess.
He sees his teacher Mr. Mason playing fourteen opponents at once – and
beating them all! Jimmy has newfound respect for his teacher when Mason explains
chess is like two armies going to war. Jimmy becomes fascinated with the game.
Mason gets the idea that these kids could gain an education and self esteem
by learning chess. The students are invigorated, but the principal is wary.
Mason is not following the lesson plan, so how could the children be learning?
Mason puts math problems on the blackboard and declares there will be no chess
until the math assignment is done. The kids scramble to do the problems, using
their new chess brain skills.
It is quickly apparent that chess is making a huge difference in the kids'
lives. Attendance is better. Test scores and grades are higher. When the kids
learn they can compete for prizes and trophies in chess tournaments, just like
other sports, they show Richard they're willing to work even harder, to earn
the chance to compete.
Their first tournament is at the opposing team's school – a private school
filled with mostly wealthy white kids. The South Bronx students are highly distracted
by the beautiful and well-equipped school and by their opponents' uniforms and
skin color. One by one, the South Bronx kids lose to their opponents –
all except five year-old Dawson, who easily wins his match.
Mason gives a pep talk to his disappointed team. Arnie comes to class to help
them analyze their games. They practice hard. They may not have the rich kids'
gear, but they decide they can at least have a team name, and they share a cheer
for the Knights of the South Bronx!
Each one wins in the next tournament. The opponents' coach is very impressed
with the performance of the kids, even more so when he finds out they don't
have coaches or time clocks. He gives Mason $300 to buy the team time clocks.
There remains only one final arena of competition for the young Knights to
conquer – the Nationals! Mason has the Knights practice without their
chess boards. If they want to have a chance to win the big tournament, they
must learn to play the game in their heads!
However, principal Walker has bad news. The applications for the nationals
have arrived. The registration fee is $75 per child, plus the airfare to Dallas.
There's no way the school can afford the trip. They decide to have a bake sale
and alert the media. Hundreds show up, including celebrities. But they still
don't have enough money.
The next day at school, Mason is about to tell the kids they will not be able
to go to the Nationals. But before he can say it, the rich elderly woman shows
up to pay the balance – and then some. Mason and the team are on their
way to Dallas! But will they be able to triumph in their biggest challenge yet?
In Knights of the South Bronx David MacEnulty strenuously argued that
chess was not just a game but a set of mind skills that would enable children
to face challenges they would encounter in their lives. They not only learned
the art of competition, but triumphed by beating private school teams across
the entire country.
Photos by L. Pief Weyman