- Film Guide
If while reading my blog posts during this year’s festival you’ve pictured me as a stunningly intelligent, broodingly handsome young man you would(n’t) be (too) far off. However, as erudite as you might find my words, even my intellect knows some bounds, one of which is that I suck at chess. Badly. Like, I would lose to Bobby Fischer circa 2012-level bad. So while I could never hope to compete at the level of the young geniuses on display in Brooklyn Castle, I’m certainly content to watch this inspiring doc play out in front of me.
The doc follows I.S. (Intermediate School) 318, a public school in Brooklyn, where nearly 70 percent of its students are living below poverty level. Despite this, they are the proud owners of the winningest junior high school chess team in the nation (more championships than any other school in the last decade), a rare combination of hard working students and tremendously inspirational teachers showing the power of after-school programs in furthering one’s education. Despite this windfall of success, the economic hardships of recent years force cutbacks in the school’s budget, which threaten to unravel all the hard work of the faculty and students. Specifically following five members of the chess team (Alexis, Justus, Patrick, Pobo and Rochelle) as they face challenges on the chessboard that help prepare them for those facing them in everyday life, we follow along as they experience the highs and lows of competitive sports (this is the rare school where the chess team are the athletic superstars) and learn the aspirations that fuel them through these tragedies and triumphs.
Brooklyn Castle combines the best parts of Waiting for Superman and Spellbound into a potent documentary made for maximum "make Tom fight back crocodile tears in the back of the theater" efficacy. And if the film inspires you thusly (and I suspect it will), please attend the panel following the screening scheduled for 7:30 at Kenilworth Square East 640. Inspired by Brooklyn Castle, it will look at the challenges surrounding our city’s after-school programs and what the community can do to help foster a winning environment like the one at I.S. 318. And after you see what after-school programs can do in this documentary, chances are you’ll want to help make programs in your own backyard as successful as this one.
As a final note, if you find yourself inspired by Brooklyn Castle, consider donating some money toward their Kickstarter campaign to help fund community screenings with the subjects and filmmakers in attendance to help inspire discussion about the vitality of after-school programs in our educational system.
BROOKLYN CASTLE screens today (Wednesday), 5 PM at the Oriental Theatre. A panel discussion will be held after the screening at Kenilworth Square East, Room 640 at 7:30 PM. Advanced tickets are no longer available online. Rush tickets for any unclaimed seats will be made available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and go on sale 15 minutes prior to showtime. Rush tickets are $10, cash only. (No discounts.)
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Tom Fuchs is returning for a third year as our featured festival blogger, telling you all about our daily festival picks. Tom has been on our shorts programming committee for all four years of the Milwaukee Film Festival.