Reports | October 10, 2012 21:14

Brooklyn Castle documentary in theaters October 19th

Brooklyn Castle documentary in theaters October 19th

Brooklyn, New York’s Intermediate School 318 is a public school that's home to the most winning junior high school chess team in the USA. A series of deep public school cuts now threatens to undermine the team's hard won success. The award winning documentary Brooklyn Castle, which will be released October 19th, 2012, tells the story.

The I.S. 318 chess team currently has 85 members and has won thirty national championship titles—more than any other junior high school in the country. In April of 2012 they became the first junior high school team to become High School National Champions. They were honored in a ceremony with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and their triumph was featured on the front page of The New York TimesBrooklyn Castle is the remarkable and improbable true story of I.S. 318 in Brooklyn; defying stereotypes, it has the highest ranked junior high chess team in the nation.


Synopsis provided by the official website:

Brooklyn Castle tells the stories of five members of the chess team at a below-thepoverty-line inner city junior high school that has won more national championships than any other in the country. 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. After all, if they can master the world’s most difficult game, what can’t they do?

Justus Williams (11) with his parents, 6th Grade

Brooklyn Castle is driven by the compelling personalities of its characters: 11-year-old prodigy Justus is already one of America's highest-rated young chess players, and yet he often chokes, stymied by the expectations of others and his uncompromising belief in his destiny; Rochelle has the potential to become the first African-American female master in the history of chess, but she struggles to find the balance between chess and academic success; charismatic leader Pobo caters to the emotional needs of his teammates, often at the expense of his own playing; shy Alexis, second-ranked in the school, sees chess as a way to get a better education and job to support his immigrant family; and Patrick, a sensitive beginner who is determined to use his modest goal of raising his chess ranking as a means to rise above his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Rochelle Ballantyne (13), 8th Grade

The triumphs of the team can be credited in large part to the brilliant chess teacher/coach Elizabeth Spiegel and chess coordinator John Galvin, as well as the support and encouragement from their parents, but nothing would matter without the passion and time commitment the players bring to their study of the game. And while repeatedly winning is exhilarating, the team’s victories go beyond a room full of trophies—through chess they learn patience and long-term planning, and the importance of analyzing the wrong or right decisions they make after the game. 

Alexis Paredes (12), 7th Grade

In essence, chess provides skills that will serve them well for the rest of their lives, regardless of what profession they choose. The aspirations of the players are put in jeopardy by the financial crisis. The budget for their Brooklyn school, I.S. 318, is cut by more than a million dollars and they face the possibility that they will not have the money to attend tournaments they would probably win. The budget cuts are another difficult battle that school and the team must fight, but the players have learned through playing chess that every problem has a solution if you are willing to work hard enough to find it.

Patrick Johnston (11), 7th Grade

Through the inspirational stories of its characters, Brooklyn Castle illustrates that the “extra” in extracurricular activities are not “extra”—they are essential to the teaching of what Principal Rubino calls “the whole child.” As Patrick’s story vividly demonstrates, programs like the chess team can be an indispensible way to open the door for all kinds of learning. For Justus, Patrick, Rochelle, Pobo and Alexis, chess is more than a game: it is a realm where they can transcend their reality and become kings and queens themselves. Brooklyn Castle celebrates the hard work and determination that fires these young people’s pursuit of their dreams. 

You can find more information at the Brooklyn Castle website.

Editors's picture
Author: Editors


Daaim Shabazz's picture

Although I donated to this production and wrote stories on its progress, I have yet to see it. I heard it was a wonderful production. We haven't had one of these stories in quite some time.

ShockeR's picture

This looks pretty amazing ; )

I cant wait to watch it.

And im sooo jealous that chess is so popular in USA..

wish it was the same here, in Poland.. ;(

Bronkenstein's picture

I knew there was something about the Brooklyn...Fischer, Caruana , and now these kids =)

Too's picture

Add Walter Browne

Too's picture

Add Walter Browne

Bronkenstein's picture

OFC,Walter - and there is probably few more - namely Kashdan,Fine,Marshall were all born somewhere (?) in NYC, Pillsbury lived there for few years, and we will soon hear some new names, I hope.

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