BROOKLYN CASTLE is the remarkable and improbable true story of I.S. 318 in Brooklyn. The school, where 65% of students live below the federal poverty level, has the highest ranked junior high chess team in the nation. The heart of the film is the engaging young students who populate the team: Rochelle, who has the goal of becoming the first female African-American chess master; Pobo, the team's charismatic leader; Justus, an entering student who must manage the high expectations that come with achieving master status at an early age; Alexis, who feels the pressure of his immigrant parents' desire for him to realize the American dream; Patrick, who uses chess to help overcome his ADHD; and James, the young rapping maestro and budding chess talent; among several others.
BROOKLYN CASTLE is a documentary that follows the I.S. 318, an inner city Junior High school in New York that has mostly students from low-income families. Over the years, they have been known for having the best Chess teams. In 2008, they got second place for the first time in a while. Now they must try to get first place again, in 2009. But it’s not going to be that easy since the school is suffering budget cuts, which threatens the Chess team.
The film focuses on 5 student chess players. Alexis is a kid who just wants to go to college. Rochelle is now in 9th grade, but trying to become the first African-American female to become a chess master (you have to get a certain amount of points). Justus is the highest rated Chess player the school has, but when he loses. he psyches himself out. Pobo is a great player, but also wants to become class President. And finally, Patrick… a nerdy white kid who is just not very good at Chess, but won’t give up.
All of the kids have compelling stories, but for me, Patrick was the most interesting for me because he was such an odd duck. I mean, everyone loves an underdog, and I was sure rooting for him to improve his skill throughout the school year. Rochelle is also someone to get behind. Anyone that pushes themselves that hard… well, there’s a lot to admire there.
The movie starts off informing the audience on the game of chess, telling you all kinds of facts. This was cool because I wasn’t aware of some of them. Like I had no clue that there are more possible games of chess than there are Atoms in the universe. That’s pretty fascinating. I love inspirational documentaries, so I was compelled by this story of a down and out school trying to make something of these inner city kids. Seeing these 11,12, and 13-year-olds pushing themselves and expanding there minds was inspiring.
The film is well put together, even if it is a bit overlong. I felt like it got repetitive on occasion, but that still didn’t diminish its inspirational impact. I myself, haven’t played Chess all too much. I played it for a few months when I was in College, but it’s been quite some time since I’ve played the game. Might have to break out my Muppet Show Chess set again, cause this movie really made me want to learn the game more thoroughly.
BROOKLYN CASTLE is a compelling, engaging and inspiring Documentary, featuring Junior High kids that you can relate to. Even if you don’t know the game of Chess all too well, it won’t stop you from enjoying this pleasant film.