101 minutes | MPAA rating: PG
The cool kids at Brooklyn’s I.S. 318 aren’t football players or cheerleaders. They’re chess nerds.
For more than 20 years the adolescent chess enthusiasts from this middle school have dominated the game, winning national championship after national championship.
Katie Dellamaggiore’s documentary follows these kids – the vast majority from impoverished families — over a couple of years, getting into the ethos that has made the 318’s chess team so successful while chronicling the NYC public school budget crunch that threatens not just the chess players but virtually all after-school activities.
Like “Spellbound” (about kids preparing for the national spelling bee) and “Mad Hot Ballroom” (New York small fry gearing up for a ballroom dance competition), “Brooklyn Castle” benefits from young, amusing, enthusiastic subjects, built-in suspense (who’ll walk away with the trophies?), and a conviction that our future rests with our young people.
I don’t think it’s as good as film as those other two examples of the genre. Perhaps I’ve been down this cinematic road a few too many times already…or maybe it has something to do with my own lack of interest in the game.