Brooklyn Castle (2012) - Rotten Tomatoes

Brooklyn Castle (2012)



Critic Consensus: Brooklyn Castle is a warm, engaging, and even uplifting documentary about chess-playing whiz kids.

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Brooklyn Castle is the remarkable and improbable true story of I.S. 318 in Brooklyn. The school, where 65% of students live below the federal poverty level, has the highest ranked junior high chess team in the nation. The heart of the film is the engaging young students who populate the team: Rochelle, who has the goal of becoming the first female African-American chess master; Pobo, the team's charismatic leader; Justus, an entering student who must manage the high expectations that come with achieving master status at an early age; Alexis, who feels the pressure of his immigrant parents' desire for him to realize the American dream; Patrick, who uses chess to help overcome his ADHD; and James, the young rapping maestro and budding chess talent; among several others. -- (C) Official Site
PG (for some language)
Documentary , Special Interest
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Critic Reviews for Brooklyn Castle

All Critics (52) | Top Critics (25)

Brooklyn Castle does a superb job of celebrating the triumph while reinforcing the relentless vigilance it requires from everyone involved.

Full Review… | October 7, 2013
New York Daily News
Top Critic

Brooklyn Castle is inspiring stuff that grabs you by the throat and will leave you cheering - quietly of course. No shouting in a chess match.

Full Review… | March 28, 2013
Toronto Star
Top Critic

There's a general spirit of triumph and perseverance to "Brooklyn Castle" that's inevitably uplifting.

Full Review… | March 1, 2013
Detroit News
Top Critic

"Brooklyn Castle" easily checkmates your inner cynic.

Full Review… | November 15, 2012
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Katie Dellamaggiore's lively and affecting documentary introduces us to a cast of characters that's very winning (in both senses of the word).

Full Review… | November 15, 2012
Boston Globe
Top Critic

It's not To Sir, With Love: It's fierce ambition, the channeling of emotion, and hours of drilling.

Full Review… | November 14, 2012
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Brooklyn Castle


"Brooklyn Castle" is a social commentary on school budget cuts that is disguised as a documentary about chess. The story follows five students from Intermediate School 318, the inner-city Brooklyn public school and unlikely home of the country's most successful middle school chess program. This chess team helps its diverse student population master the game through dedicated educators and administrative support. The only problem is that, rather than helping the audience to create an emotional connection to the kids, the movie depresses us with today's grim state of education. I would have rather celebrated the success stories of these exceptional students instead of being reminded of school budget cuts and suffering extracurricular programs. "Brooklyn Castle" could have been an amazing, uplifting film but the end result is another average, politically-influenced documentary.

Jonny Priano
Jonny Priano

One one level, "Brooklyn Castle" is an occasionally suspenseful documentary that also makes unfortunate use of stop motion effects about the dynasty of championships won by the chess teams at I.S. 318 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. That winning streak continues even though players like Rochelle graduate and seek to continue their study of the game at a higher level, because new players like Justus enter the school, even though he has to travel all the way from the Bronx on a daily basis. On a much wider and more important level, "Brooklyn Castle" makes a great case for why such extracurricular activities are important, and not just because they might keep kids off the street. What this extremely successful program also does is allow the students to travel outside New York City for tournaments, while chess exercises their brains and is an activity that prizes sportmanship.(I love the handshake before and after matches, by the way.) So while they think six moves ahead in the game, they also become prepared to do so in real life, as the documentary also provides insight into the structure of the New York City school system. All of which is threatened is by severe budget cuts after the 2008 recession. As one student says, the last thing that should be cut from any budget is education.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

Or the Nerds Shall Inherit The Earth... Such an inspiring and interesting story about a chess club team from a Jr High School in Brooklyn. There are so many stories here to tell, and they're all so interesting that the film never feels like its dragging. It makes a good case for better funding for schools without explicitly making the case. You care so much about these students and see how chess has helped them in their lives to be more confident and have better problem solving skills that you want every kid to have that. You don't worry about the politics of the issues or how the problem has to be fixed, you just want it fixed. It's a really wonderful film about how hope can change a community.

Nathan Martin
Nathan Martin

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