March 19 2012
Very few know that back in high school, not only I was in Chess Club, I was the vice president. My good friend Alex (who was president), taught me chess back in the late 80s and early 90s. I became addicted to the game. Easy to learn, hard to master, the game of Chess has always fascinated me. So when I heard that a documentary about a junior high school chess club called Brooklyn Castle was debuting at this year's SXSW, I had to see what the film was all about.
However, the film is not all about chess, but really, the importance and state of after-school programs. Brooklyn Castle, directed by Katie Dellamaggiore, tells the story of inner-city junior high school chess team that is home to one of the best teams in the country. But due to budget cuts to the school, the chess program was on the cutting block. The film focuses on five students and the impact that the game of chess has on their lives, and how they deal with the potential cuts to their school's chess program.
Brooklyn Castle debuted on March 11 at the 2012 SXSW Film festival to rave reviews, which garnered the film the SXSW Audience Award for Best Documentary. Even former Fugees member and Grammy nominated artist John Forte got involved with the film as a co-executive producer. The film initially got some of its funding through Kickstarter.
Following the film's debut in Austin, I attended the The Brooklyn Castle Premiere Party & Chess event in a park near the Austin Convention Center. The event featured Brooklyn Castle's and student Justus Williams - who last year, at age 12, became the youngest African-American Chess Master ever. Justus challenged about 15 people to game of chess at the same time. The event also featured the film's director Katie Dellamaggiore and John Forte as well some of the other students from the film.
It now looks like this heart-warming documentary will be adapted into a film. Producer Scott Rudin (The Social Network,, No Country For Old Men) has purchased the rights to remake the documentary into a film for Sony. I hope to see the documentary screened at this year's Milwaukee Film Festival.
Check out my recap video and photos from this event Brooklyn Castle below.