There is a crime being committed in New York, and it’s happening right under our noses. Over the last several years, students and parents have noticed a growing wedge between themselves and the educational system, a system which had promised growth but instead works more as an obstacle than an uplifting hand. In order to help us grasp the magnitude of this failure, director Katie Dellamaggiore decided to produce a film which places quite possibly some of the brightest adolescents in the country within the crosshairs of a criminal and ignorant government.
‘Brooklyn Castle’ is a documentary focused on a group of junior high school students in the Brooklyn educational system, who must overcome a series of budget cuts in the latter years of the millennium’s first decade, threatening to stymie their creative growth in the arts. Students, parents, school staff, and their respective situations, decisions, fears, and hopes are elevated to a plane of relation with our own, despite being separated from the Santa Ana community by almost the entirety of the USA.
Oh, and the junior high students we follow are all chess geniuses – if Albert Einstein (ranked 1800) were to join the team, he would barely make the top five, claim the filmmakers.
The DVD is put together well enough. The filmmaker’s editing, music, and run-and-gun shooting style help to create a sense of urgency in the viewer to get out there and fight for our children and their futures. It’s quite the experience to bear witness to these adolescent geniuses, mature and wise beyond their years and gifted with skills beyond our imagination, and how their growth is precipitously at risk. It almost begs the question: how many children have already had their creative futures cut short or so poignantly altered – futures that may otherwise have proven to forward progressive avenues of “archiculture”, mathematics, or medicine?
While viewing ‘Brooklyn Castle’, it is important to keep in mind that this isn’t ‘The Search for Bobby Fischer’. Chess plays a prominent role in the narrative, but when it really comes down to it, serves only to magnify the gap between a continually failing educational system (whether due to budget cuts, inept decision-making on the part of politicians, or something else) and the bright minds being extinguished on a daily basis.
The DVD only has one special feature – deleted scenes which focus a little more on the chess-playing scene, some characters who aren’t focused as much in the narrative, and a collection of other very short vignettes. It is a shame because one would imagine that the filmmakers would want to share what gave them the inspiration to go out to New York and travel with the students and the school officials to tournaments, as well as their experiences with the children and their home lives. But, just as well, it isn’t really the filmmakers that are of importance in this whole story, but the children – and in that vein, ‘Brooklyn Castle’ is very consistent.
Rated PG for some language, Trailer
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