On the evening of October 13th, the good folks at Brooklyn Industries held an in-store event unlike any other. I’ve attended their store and collection launches, along with special shopping events, but the 13th held an event that was undeniably “Brooklyn”. At their Fulton Street location, BKI hosted a screening of “Brooklyn Castle”. “Brooklyn Castle” is a documentary detailing the lives of students and faculty leaders of the I.S. 318 Chess Team in Williamsburg. They are undefeated junior high school champions. Directed by Dellamaggiore, a fellow Brooklynite, it was amazing to get a first-hand look of the lives of these children, and how hard they train for chess competitions, along with the struggles they faced in regards to funding. The movie was made over the course of 2009-2010, a time when New York City public schools took a big hit financially, specifically in the area of extra-curricular and arts programs. This continues to be a struggle not just for I.S. 318, but public schools city-wide.
There were many poignant moments in the film, and I admit, I did shed a few tears as such raw emotion was exhibited on the screen in front of me. Many of the students are first-generation, born to immigrant parents. We see the dynamic of parent and child; parent working tirelessly to ensure that child has a roof over their head and the opportunity to attend the best schools the city has to offer, and child working twice as hard to make the parent(s) proud and ensure a better life for them all.
It was lovely to get to see some of the students and director in-store. They answered questions about the film, their journey, and what their goals are for the future. The subjects of the film are now juniors or seniors in high school, respectively. Director Katie Dellamaggiore shared her passionate tale of the time and effort she and her team put in to create the film. She also shared her personal struggles for funding the movie, as it was a completely independent effort.
“Brooklyn Castle” has been screening across the country for a few months now to rave reviews. If you reside in the New York City area, you can see the film at the Landmark Sunshine Theater. I highly recommend this film, not just because of where it was primarily filmed, but because it is so well done. I connected with each character, to the point where I could completely empathize with their struggles and triumphs.
Check out some of my photos of the event below, and be sure to check out Brooklyn Castle for periodic updates on the film!