One junior high school student says "bulls--t," once. 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. By bringing the financial crash to this micro level, it's never been clearer exactly how much it cost, and after watching the team rack up victories, we see that not everything was lost.