It seems like every few years, a documentary about kids competing in an unusual activity makes a splash at film festivals and captures critics' hearts. In 2002, Spellbound, a documentary about the 1999 National Spelling Bee, made it all the way to an Oscar nomination. Mad Hot Ballroom, a 2005 film about elementary school kids in New York in a city-wide ballroom dancing competition, won awards from the National Board of Review and the Gotham Awards.
This year, the standout documentary about overachieving youngsters is Brooklyn Castle -- a terrific film about a Brooklyn middle school with the nation's winningest chess team, despite the fact that over 70 percent of its students live below the poverty line. The film follows five students, showing the impact chess and being on the team has on their lives, and how those gains may be erased when the economic meltdown forces budget cuts that may hamper the team's ability to compete at the highest levels. See my ReThink Review of Brooklyn Castle below.
I had the opportunity to interview Brooklyn Castle's director, Katie Dellamaggiore, and one of the film's chess-playing stars, Alexis Parades, about the film, chess, and the importance of elective and extra-curricular programs. Check out my interview with them below, and visit BrooklynCastle.com to find out how you can see the film and support it.