Award winning documentary 'Brooklyn Castle' opens today

10/20/2012 – Brooklyn Castle is a documentary about I.S. 318 – an inner-city school where more than 65 percent of students are from homes with incomes below the federal poverty level – that also happens to have the best, most winning junior high school chess team in the country. There have been rave reviews in Time and the New York Times, and a section today on MSNBC Today. Report and trailer.

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Amidst financial crises and unprecedented public school budget cuts, Brooklyn Castle takes an intimate look at the challenges and triumphs facing members of a junior high school's champion chess team. The film is a documentary about I.S. 318 – an inner-city school where more than 65 percent of students are from homes with incomes below the federal poverty level – that also happens to have the best, most winning junior high school chess team in the country. (If Albert Einstein, who was rated 1800, were to join the team, he'd only rank fifth best). Chess has transformed the school from one cited in 2003 as a "school in need of improvement" to one of New York City's best. But a series of recession-driven pubic school budget cuts now threaten to undermine those hard-won successes. Source: IMDB.

Official trailer

This award winning documentary was released today (October 19, 2012). It tells the stories of five members of the chess team at a below-the-poverty-line inner city junior high school that has won more national championships than any other in the country. The film follows the challenges these kids face in their personal lives as well as on the chessboard, and is as much about the sting of their losses as it is about the anticipation of their victories.

MSNBC Today report on Brooklyn Castle

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Links

  • Time Entertainment: Brooklyn Castle: The Cool Kids Play Chess
    It would be hard not to fall in love with the five kids profiled in the film, which won the audience award at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival. First, there’s Rochelle Ballantyne, the player to beat, one of few girls on the team, who is well on her way to becoming the first female African American chess master in the history of chess. Another superstar, Justus Williams, joins the team as a new sixth grade student, and at 11-years-old has already won some of the highest national honors possible for a young chess player. And Alexis Paredes, another of the team’s top players, who sees chess as a stepping stone to a career that will allow him to help support his immigrant parents. At the other end of the spectrum is Patrick Johnston, the lovable underdog with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, who eagerly wants to improve his ranking on the team. And finally, there’s Pobo, the team’s backbone, biggest cheerleader and arguably the film’s star, who dubs himself “Pobama” and runs for school president.

  • New York Times: At a Brooklyn School, the Cool Crowd Pushes the King Around
    Chess is embedded in the culture of I.S. 318. All sixth graders take weekly chess classes and can continue chess as an elective for the next two years. Players from acclaimed elementary school chess programs like the one at Public School 31 in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, feed the school, but the team also welcomes beginners. Chess banners line the hallways, and the school’s answering machine says, “Thank you for calling I.S. 318, home of the national chess champions.”

  • New York Times: The Game Is All-Consuming, at Least Until the Outside World Intrudes
    October 18 2012 – “Brooklyn Castle” is itself an argument about how children succeed, but it is also unabashedly and somewhat overexcitedly a feature-length mash note to its young subjects. Yet why not? It’s deeply satisfying watching these public school, hard-knock kids win, and [Director] Ms. Dellamaggiore knows it. They struggle, these children, and their struggling reaches its climax in tournaments that are at once dramatic and nicely cinematic, as illustrated by the many wide shots of rows upon rows of boys and girls hunched over boards in cavernous hotel rooms. Will they win? You know it. Read it and weep: In April, after the documentary wrapped, I.S. 318 became the first middle school team to win the United States Chess Federation’s national high school championship.

  • List of IMDB reviews


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