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'Fresh' Chess Connections In A 'Brooklyn Castle' (Today In History)

by Tambay A. Obenson
September 1, 2012 1:20 PM
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Still From 'Brooklyn Castle'
Still From 'Brooklyn Castle'

Today in historySeptember 11972... American chess legend Bobby Fischer beat Boris Spassky of the then Soviet Union to win the international chess crown in a match made for the cold war era, in ReykjavíkIceland.

In 1993, Laurence Fishburne co-starred in a drama titled Searching For Bobby Fischer, which wasn't about the chess master, but rather was based on the life of another chess prodigy,Joshua Waitzkin, who wasn't even born when Fischer won the 1972 title. The title of the film speaks to Waitzkin's desire to be the kind of winner that Fischer was in his prime.

But I'd like to point you to another film in which the rules of the game of chess play a pivotal role in the progression of the film and the influence it has on its characters.

I'm referring to Boaz Yakin's 1994 drama Fresh, which I rarely hear mentioned anymore, despite how fresh (pun intended) the movie is, with a stellar cast that included Giancarlo Esposito,Samuel L. JacksonN'Bushe Wright, and Sean Nelson, as the titular character.

In Fresh, Boaz Yakin's feature debut, a 12-year-old drug runner nicknamed Fresh (Nelson), a precocious, introspective kid, uses chess philosophy, steadfastly taught to him by his estranged father (Samuel L. Jackson), a speed chess player/hustler, as the chess board becomes a metaphor for life, as seen through the eyes of young Fresh, who plots a coldly brilliant plan to save himself and his junkie sister (Wright) from a world of drugs and violence.

If you haven't seen Fresh, it's well worth a look! And lucky for you, it's on DVD, as well as VOD via Netflix and; also someone uploaded the entire film onto YouTube!

And most recently, in 2012 Sony Pictures and producer Scott Rudin purchased the remake rights to Brooklyn Castle, the acclaimed doc that premiered at SXSW this year, where it won the audience award for best documentary. I saw it and loved it. You can find my review of the film here

Brooklyn Castle (directed by Katie Dallamaggiore) is a documentary about I.S. 318, an inner-city public school that's home to the most-winning junior high school chess team in the country. But a series of deep public school budget cuts now threaten to undermine its hard-won success. It's an incredibly moving, portrait of black (and other minority) youth we rarely ever get to see on screen.

It's understandable can understand why Sony would want to turn it into a scripted feature.

But you definitely should see the doc before then, as indie distributor Producers Distribution Agency will release it in theaters on October 19 debut.

Any other noteworthy "fresh chess conections" on film you can think of?

Watch the trailer below:

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  • Ava | September 4, 2012 10:04 AMReply

    Wonderfully timed reminder! Does everyone know that the 2012 Chess Olympiad is taking place in Istanbul, Turkey as this conversation takes place? China and Russia are the ones to beat as of now.

  • Cineloveww | September 2, 2012 11:00 AMReply

    I've heard so much about "Brooklyn Castle!" Can't wait for to catch it in LA!

  • deecreative | September 2, 2012 1:25 AMReply

    Yes! Fresh is the movie! It did have a strong chess element, I was the same age as the character Fresh when it came out and I believe Sean Nelson is the same age as well. Powerful movie! Thanks for bringing this up, I am looking forward to the documentary, chess is a great game.

  • justsaying | September 1, 2012 1:25 PMReply

    On another note....Jay-Z went to I.S.318... don't hear nothing about him donating to that school...

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