Brooklyn Castle looks at the challenges and triumphs of a champion junior high chess team hit hard by public school budget cuts.
WOW! We did it! Thank you to all of our backers for your overwhelmingly generous support. We're funded!!!! And we are finishing this movie :-)
AND a GIANT special thanks to Elliott Neff of Chess4Life.com and Raphael Neff of Chesshouse.com for donating 5k and taking our project over the finish line. So so very excited to have you both on board!!
AFTER WATCHING THE VIDEO FROM US UP TOP - PLEASE WATCH THE BROOKLYN CASTLE TRAILER HERE:
Amidst financial crises and unprecedented public school budget cuts I.S. 318 in Brooklyn, New York has assembled the best junior high chess team in the nation. Brooklyn Castle follows five chess team members for one year, and documents their challenges and triumphs both on and off the chessboard.
WHY WE'RE MAKING THIS FILM:
When we began shooting 'Brooklyn Castle,' we mostly wanted to document a great story: An underserved school where kids were thriving and the staff was tirelessly dedicated. But as we shot, we realized the film was a counterpoint to the tired notion that public schools – and public school students – can only fail. When budget cuts suddenly threatened to destroy the programs that make the school special, we knew we had to chronicle this new turn in the story. I.S. 318 represented countless schools, and countless students, around the country – and the sheer unfairness of it all.
Brooklyn Castle is a documentary that is as much about the five young teens it follows as it is about the ability for public schools to do great things when they have the resources. Once we complete our film we will take it to cities across the country and have local screenings to raise awareness about how vital this afterschool program, and others like it, are for schools. We’re also organizing chess tournaments that pit I.S. 318’s chess team against those of some of the most brilliant minds in this country – at places like Harvard and Columbia and the Google campus – so the kids realize those places are within their reach, and word gets out that public schools across the country are suffering from the crushing effects of budget cuts. We learned in making this documentary that even with a staff that cares and students that work hard, a lack of resources can undermine even the most hard-won achievements.
WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH I.S. 318 RIGHT NOW?
Just this November Intermediate School 318 assistant principal and chess coach John Galvin charged $8,000 to his personal credit card so his students – members of I.S. 318’s champion chess team – could travel to a chess competition across the country. Eight thousand dollars is a lot of money for nearly all of us; on a teacher’s salary, it’s an astronomical sum. But not spending the money would’ve meant the I.S. 318 chess team – the best and winningest junior high chess team in the country, bar none – might not have been able to compete. John Galvin has fronted money for the team before, confident that by the year's end – after school fundraisers and vigorous efforts by Principal Fred Rubino to keep the chess program funded – he would be able to pay back his debt. But even with that confidence, we still think it's a pretty admirable thing for a teacher to do.
Then -- something incredible happened.
On December 2nd the I.S. 318 was featured in the New York Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/brooklyn-champion-school-chess-team-held-check-lack-funds-article-1.984892
And in response to this article a local Brooklyn power company stepped up and donated 25k to the team. It's pretty amazing and proof for us that community members respond to I.S. 318's story.
Of course the school is beyond thrilled -- and we are too!
And if we can raise enough money to finish the film and support our outreach campaign, we can screen Brooklyn Castle in communities across the country and help raise awareness about the value of afterschool programs – hopefully helping other quality, yet underfunded, programs like the I.S. 318 chess team link up with a "power company" in their own community.
As of November 1, 2011, we are very close to completing Brooklyn Castle, but we’re still 20k away from a having a film that’s ready for theaters. Please help us finish our film so we can share the story of I.S. 318 with a nationwide audience and make a genuine, positive impact on public schools and school children.
To learn more about the project and join our update list please visit www.brooklyncastle.com
THE CAST OF BROOKLYN CASTLE:
JUSTUS - 6th Grader
Possessing a natural gift for chess, Justus is a rising star in the scholastic chess world. At just 11 years old, he is already rated 2100 and has been selected to join the United States Chess Federation’s esteemed All-American team — one of the highest national honors attainable by a young chess player. Justus struggles with the unwanted attention his immense talent commands, as well as the sky-high expectations it raises.
ALEXIS - 7th Grader
A meditative, thoughtful chess player, Alexis is one of the highest rated members of the I.S. 318 team. He sees chess, and entrance to one to New York City’s top tier public high schools, as the first step on the road to a promising career that will allow him to support his immigrant parents. But getting into a great school is based on the result of a single exam, and Alexis suffers under the strain of pressure from both outside and within.
ROCHELLE - 8th Grader
Having found chess at I.S. 318 to be a boy’s club, Rochelle was driven to prove she could not only be a formidable opponent against her male peers, she could outdo them. Three years later, her name sits atop the list of I.S. 318′s best players. Now Rochelle has her sights set even higher: She’s determined to become the first African-American female master in the history of chess.
POBO - 7th Grader
A charismatic student and natural politician, Pobo emerges as a big brother figure and leader to the other chess team members. Dubbing himself “Pobama,” the ambitious 12-year-old mounts a campaign to become president of the school, with the goal of restoring budget cuts that threaten I.S. 318′s afterschool programs, including chess.
Patrick - 6th Grader
For Patrick, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, chess is more than a game, it’s a way to learn focus, concentration and patience. Although he has difficulty with some of the more complex strategies, he displays an endurance and commitment that promise to lead him not just to a higher rating, but to newfound confidence in his strengths – in both chess and life.
Elizabeth Vicary - I.S. 318 Chess Teacher and Chess Coach
A chess champion and the guiding force behind I.S. 318′s blue-ribbon chess team, Ms. Vicary has helped hundreds of kids go from not knowing how to move the pieces on the board to winning national titles. When she arrived at the school, the chess team was only 10 members strong and had never competed in a tournament. By the end of her first year, they’d won a national title. A tireless coach and mentor for her students, she instills I.S. 318′s kids with skills and confidence that will serve them long after they’ve graduated – and led the school to more national chess titles than any other junior high in the country.
John Galvin - I.S. 318 Assistant Principal and Chess Coach
Now in his 17th year at I.S. 318, Mr. Galvin is a veteran educator, dedicated chess coach and firm adherent of the notion that talent and hard work lead to success – an idea he impresses on the members of the chess team. He’s tough – but supportive – and his high expectations have led to the culture of success that pervades I.S. 318. When the Wall Street financial crisis begins to impact the school, he helps to mount a community-wide campaign to push against funding cuts and save the programs that make I.S. 318 great.
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