“Brooklyn Castle” tells the stories of five students on 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.
A free screening of “Brooklyn Castle” will be at 7 p.m., Thursday, July 25 at Star Hall. The free screening is made available through the Utah Film Circuit: Moab, an initiative of the Grand County Public Library and the Utah Film Center. The monthly screening series feature the best dramatic and documentary films from around the world.
Eighty-seven percent of the students on the Intermediate School 318’s chess team in Brooklyn, New York are from homes with incomes well below the federal poverty line, which is now just $22,000 for a family of four.
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. Ironically, the biggest obstacle thrust upon them arises not from other competitors but from recessionary budget cuts to all the extracurricular activities at their school. “Brooklyn Castle” shows how these kids’ dedication to chess magnifies their belief in what is possible for their lives.
“I dare you not to be moved by this incredibly inspiring documentary about a group of kids living near the poverty line in Brooklyn, New York,” said Sallie Hodges of the Utah Film Center: Moab. “Instead of sports, their savior is playing chess.”
Justus is a sixth grader who possesses a natural gift for chess. At only 11 years old, he has been selected to join the United States Chess Federation’s esteemed All-American team — one of the highest national honors attainable by a young chess player.
Rochelle is an eighth grader that found the chess club to be a boy’s club. She was driven to prove that she could not only be a formidable opponent against her male peers, but to outdo them as well. After three years of being on the team, her name is atop the school’s list of best players. She is now determined to become the first African-American female master in the history of chess. Intermediate School 318 in Brooklyn, New York is a testament to the transformational powers of chess and quality afterschool programming. The school’s chess program began as a loose gathering of chess enthusiasts – the “Chess Nuts,” as they called themselves – in the early ‘90s.
Elizabeth Vicary, then working for nonprofit Chess-in-the-Schools, arrived at I.S. 318 in 1999 to coach a team of just 10 kids who’d never before competed in a tournament. By the end of her first year, the school had a National title and a reason to be excited about chess. The program expanded exponentially over the following years.
Today I.S. 318 boasts a team of nearly 100 students and a display case showcasing several chess trophies. The school now holds more National chess titles than any other junior high school in the country; and offers 45 afterschool programs in subjects as diverse as robotics, botany and tennis.
It is one of New York City’s most successful schools.
“The Grand County Public Library and the Utah Film Circuit: Moab are pleased to present this uplifting, heartwarming documentary,” said Jessie Magleby of the Grand County Public Library. “Watching these kids triumph despite enormous challenges and disadvantages will undoubtedly inspire and encourage students, teachers, parents, really anyone with a heart, whether or not chess is their thing.”