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The I.S. 318 chess team, featured in Brooklyn Castle. (BrooklynCastle.com)

See A Clip From The Outstanding 'Brooklyn Castle,' A Film About Chess And Life

Oct 17, 2012

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Linda Holmes

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Brooklyn Castle, which I originally saw at the South By Southwest Film Festival in March, is one of my favorite movies of the year. And starting this week, it's coming to theaters in select cities. (See a list of theaters here.)

Here's part of what I said about it after I saw it in Austin:

If I could pick only one film from the South By Southwest film festival and bodily force everyone I know to see it, it would be Brooklyn Castle, a documentary directed by Katie Dellamaggiore that follows the chess team at I.S. 318, a New York junior high school that has become a superpower at national tournaments.

Because the school has, as the principal explains, a poverty rate of about 70 to 75 percent, it would be easy for this film to be a very obvious, very shallow story in which the moral is that even kids from the worst possible circumstances can succeed. That's not what it's about. These are kids who are, in many ways, profoundly blessed: they're very bright, they're personable, and they have loving, supportive families. At ages where a lot of kids (quite understandably) don't do a lot of long-term thinking, these are kids who are focused on getting into one of New York's specialized high schools, so they can go to college, so they can get great jobs someday. And they're in eighth grade. (When you see them react to the day the letters come that tell them whether they got into one of those high schools, ask yourself whether you were that excited about anything having to do with your academic future when you were 13.)

We've got a clip of the film, where you'll see Alexis, one of the kids on the chess team, talking about his close family and his ambitions for the future. (His mother is great.)

I strongly recommend that you seek it out in a theater if it comes to town, and add it to your rent/stream list if it doesn't.

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