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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Hard work will be rewarded, if the students of New York's IS318 are any example. The school is largely lower income, and many of the students are the children of immigrants, but by devoting countless hours to the study of chess, they manage to excel, taking home many national titles and clearly demonstrating that they've earned their rewards -- in this case, admission to some of the most prestigious of New York's public high schools and even college scholarships.
Positive Role Models
The featured students are all from lower-income, minority families and achieve greatness through the game of chess. Through hard work, focus, discipline, and then more hard work, they manage to win a string of national titles. It's about as pure an example of a meritocracy as possible, showing that anyone can get ahead if they put their mind to it.
One junior high school student says "bulls--t," once.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Brooklyn Castle is a documentary that follows the chess team of a public New York middle school, a largely lower-income squad who've devoted themselves to studying the game and have racked up a string of national titles. It's an uplifting tale with the strongly positive message that hard work will be rewarded. There's no smoking, drinking, or sex -- just chess and more chess (and very infrequent swearing, a la "bulls--t," from kids who are sometimes frustrated by the results of a tough match). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
By bringing the financial crash to this micro level, it's never been clearer exactly how much it cost, and after watching the chess team rack up victories, we see not everything was lost. Brooklyn Castle was filmed over the course of more than one school year, and the 2008 financial crisis looms large over the entire venture. Soon after the crash, the school learns that its budget has been slashed, and they may have to cancel some after-school programs -- including the chess team. Watching Ms. Vicary, the chess teacher, and Mr. Galvin, the coach/assistant principal, try to decide which tournaments the team must skip is heartbreaking.
That's why it's so satisfying to watch the team arrange a letter-writing campaign to school officials demanding their funding back and organize fundraisers to cover their tournament travel expenses. It's clear that chess isn't just a game; for these students, it can also open doors. Like Rochelle Ballantyne, who's hoping to become the first African-American female chess master and is also in the running for a full college scholarship. Or Pobo Efekoro, the student body president who spends his afternoons as custodian at the daycare center run by his widowed mom, an immigrant from Africa.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.