Movie Review: “Brooklyn Castle”

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, October 19, 2012 at 12:00 am.

(Photo: Rescued Media)

Summary: A documentary on New York City teens who have big dreams of being national chess champions.

Reviews: Docs on teens from the hood are nearly a cliché but Brooklyn Castle is a story you haven’t seen. These aren’t tragic urban kids with aspirations of being the next rapper or NBA player. They are driven, passionate and gifted youth who possess an intellectual zeal for chess. The skills they learn via chess assists them in their everyday life, whether they face poverty or are dealing with the tricky New York public school system.

Directed by Katie Dellamaggiore, Brooklyn Castle tells various stories with polish and class. Wonderfully executed, there is no reality show-type drama that often replaces the word “documentary.” Viewers will not see the standard confessional interviews to  over-dramatize the storyline. Dellamaggiore produced a hardcore doc, a throwback to how documentaries once were, and told a story that was heartwarming and educational.

The film focuses on the phenomenal kids, like Rochelle, who dreams of becoming the first female African-American chess master. The only girl featured, her story is gripping as she struggles with her love for chess and the demands of school. In one telling moment, Rochelle says, “I believe in my dream less now.” Something we can all relate to: knowing what our passion is, but not able to follow it. Each kid has his or her own story, like Patrick, a student struggling with ADHD. There’s also Pobo, a politician in the making who not only excels at chess, but is an overall leader for his school. Another refreshing angle, the kids run the gamut of race and ethnicity — education goes beyond color lines.

Brooklyn Castle proves how important extracurricular activities are in education. When the school endures extreme budget cuts, the kids fight for their after school programs to be saved. It is scary to think where these kids might be if chess was never an option. It is equally upsetting to think how many youths could’ve been saved from the streets or prisons if chess or other after-school programs were viable options. Sadly, when there is a budget crunch, education is the first to go when it should be the last.

Clocking in at just under two hours, when the film feels repetitive, the kids save it. Brooklyn Castle is one documentary this year that should not be missed.

Brooklyn Castle opens in select cities today.

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