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Friday, November 4, 2011

Brooklyn Castle - the lovely chess film about junior high with highest rated chess team in the US!

Chess blog for latest chess news and chess trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2011

Hi everyone,

We have an update about a nice chess documentary - Brooklyn Castle. It’s a great film about a low-income junior high school in Brooklyn that has the highest rated chess team in the whole country. Wow.

Here's the trailer from They are also rolling out our outreach campaign (which will focus on getting more chess programs in schools throughout the country).  

Finishing Brooklyn Castle (Formerly Chess Movie) by Rescued Media looks at the challenges and triumphs of a champion public school chess team hit hard by budget cuts.

The project page is here.



Brooklyn, New York’s I.S. 318 is a junior high school where over 65% of students are from homes living below the federal poverty level. It also has the best junior high school chess team, bar none, in the entire country. They win nearly every tournament they play in – and regularly beat out schools, and other students, with a lot more resources. Despite being underfunded and underserved, I.S. 318 is home to some of the highest ranked students in the country. In fact, if Albert Einstein, who was rated 1800, were to join the team, he’d be fifth best. We followed the lives of five of these amazing kids – Alexis, Justus, Patrick, Pobo and Rochelle – for a year and saw their triumphs and struggles, both on and off the chessboard, and marveled at how they handled both.

Brooklyn Castle is a documentary that is as much about the ability for public schools to do great things when they have the resources as it is about these five young lives. In 2003, I.S. 318 was listed as a “school in need of improvement.” Today, it’s one of New York City’s best, and its students matriculate to some of the most prestigious high schools in the country. The chess program has led the school to create a vibrant and varied afterschool program which John Galvin, assistant principal, credits with creating the “culture of success” at the school. But what we learned in making this documentary is that even with a staff that cares and students that work hard, a lack of resources can undermine even the most hard-won achievements. Budget cuts now seriously threaten the very existence of I.S. 318’s afterschool programs. The demise of these incredibly necessary programs is certain to have serious consequences for both I.S. 318 and its students.


Brooklyn Castle is near completion. We're raising these funds, partly, for the finishing touches that make a film look, feel and sound like a movie, and they include final music scoring, final animation, sound mixing, sound design and color correction. Once accepted into a film festival, we are launching a robust audience engagement and outreach campaign that has three goals: 1) to get people talking about how incredibly important afterschool programming 2) to inspire the creation of more afterschool programs in schools across the country and 3) to influence the resources that are allotted for these programs – a really timely goal, because in recessionary periods like the one we’re in now, these programs are the first to go. We’ve partnered with education organizations like the Afterschool Alliance, as well as chess organizations like the United States Chess Federation to mention just a couple. But we still have a lot of work to do. With the help of our partners, who know a lot more about this stuff than we do, we’re going to do a 10-city screening campaign which will target principals and administrators of underserved schools to inform them how to create and maintain chess and other quality afterschool programs at their schools. We’ll also give them tangible tool kits – including success stories, testimonials, and step-by-step guides – and discussion guides and DVDs for screenings at their schools and/or local community spaces. We’re designing a mobile app that will let people donate directly to schools in need of funds for their afterschool programs. And we’re working with local programs in cities throughout the country to get administrators and funders in rooms together, so they can talk about how incredibly important these programs are.

We are seriously and earnestly committed to the idea of having Brooklyn Castledo more than just tell a story – we really want it to have a genuine, positive impact, and we feel confident that if we work with people and organizations that share our goals, it will.


You knew it was coming…

The thing is, all of this takes money. Not only the finishing touches to the film, but to pay for campaign materials – the paper, the printing, the DVDs – and travel to host these community screenings. We’ve done a lot so far with our own resources in order to start building this campaign and we’ve gotten help from people like the Fledgling Fund. We plan to use Kickstarter funds to keep the momentum of our campaign going strong – up until and extending beyond the premiere of the film. We would appreciate any help, at all, you would be willing to provide us. And thanks so much for your time!

From Alexandra Kosteniuk's
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