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'Brooklyn Castle'

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Reviewed by Nora Ankrum, Fri., March 16, 2012

SXSW Film

Brooklyn Castle

Documentary Spotlight
D: Katie Dellamaggiore

   The chess geeks at most schools might occupy the bottom rung of the social ladder, but at Brooklyn's I.S. 318 – which holds more national chess titles than any junior high in the country – "the geeks are the athletes," says Assistant Principal John Galvin. With a majority of its students living below the poverty level, I.S. 318 has developed a unique formula for achievement that relies heavily on afterschool programming to keep kids engaged. While the school's trophy case is a testament to that formula's success, the charismatic stars of this documentary – including Rochelle, who at just 13 years old is within reach of becoming the world's first female African-American chess master – reveal the less obvious benefits and hardships of such a program, which challenges students not just intellectually but also emotionally as they juggle school and family pressures, as well as their commitment to winning. Set against a backdrop of deep budget cuts and high-stakes testing, this story makes an eloquent plea for the crucial but endangered role of afterschool programs in public education.


Friday, March 16, 11:15am, Stateside

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