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Malcolm David Kelley,
Brooklyn Castle is a documentary about I.S. 318 - an inner-city school where more than 65 percent of students are from homes with incomes below the federal poverty level - that also happens to have the best, most winning junior high school chess team in the country. (If Albert Einstein, who was rated 1800, were to join the team, he'd only rank fifth best). Chess has transformed the school from one cited in 2003 as a "school in need of improvement" to one of New York City's best. But a series of recession-driven pubic school budget cuts now threaten to undermine those hard-won successes.Written by
An Inspiring film about how Chess is changing lives at an Inner City Junior High
Brooklyn Castle was extremely well-received at its World Premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. This film shows how students who are often written off as low achievers can be inspired and empowered to succeed. I.S. 318 in Brooklyn has been building teams that win national chess championships and by doing so empowering students to learn and to succeed against very long odds. This inspiring film focuses in on a few students and shows their struggles and their successes. These students take us into their lives and show us how chess has changed them and given them opportunities that they never knew existed before. Chess provides them an avenue to success where they can go as far as their minds can take them. The film is powerful antidote to all of the negative attacks that we hear about teachers and public education (in films such as "Waiting for Superman" which placed the blame for educational problems on the Teachers Unions). This shows that students succeed when they are empowered by excellent teachers. One creative aspect of this school is that chess is offered to the students as an elective course instead of just an extra-curricular activity.
Despite all of their successes they face even greater challenges from budget cuts that threaten their opportunities to travel to tournaments and compete. Education and the opportunity to achieve should be a right of all American students, not a privilege of the well-to-do. This film should be widely viewed by all those here in Texas and around the country that are seeking to balance budgets on the backs of American schoolchildren. We need to invest in the minds of our children if we expect them to be able to compete in a global economy. Chess is an excellent avenue that can be used to grow young minds. Bravo to I.S. 318 and to the filmmakers of Brooklyn Castle who have shown us the successes being achieved at one school. This film needs to be widely viewed by the general public and most especially by our educators and our political leaders.
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