Classics on Film
Delight in favorites and hidden gems of the silver screen with this annual film series presented by the Mercer Island Arts Council. Meet us at Aljoya Theater, where film historian Lance Rhoades sets the stage with an introduction for each film and then leads a Q&A to share more insights and interesting facts.
Just as every game of chess is full of possibilities and every match is unique, this quintessential game of concentration and strategy inspired many different types of movies. The 2018-19 Classics on Film series celebrates the amazing variety of chess-themed cinema, with documentaries and dramas drawn from more than a dozen countries on six continents. These include stories of inspiration, empowerment, genius, madness, political intrigue, and surprise twists, all relating to this timeless game. With thanks to the Mercer Island Sister City Association, this year’s series includes two French-language chess-themed films as well as a pair of films from director Patrice Leconte.
Join us Fridays at Aljoya, 2430 76th Avenue SE, where film historian Lance Rhoades will introduce and lead a Q&A following the films. All screenings are free and open to the public and, when available, are presented with English subtitles. Events start at 7:30 pm unless otherwise noted.
View the Fall 2018 schedule with links below or print it here. And check back in November for our Winter/Spring 2019 line-up!
September 14: Knights of the South Bronx (Allen Hughes, 2005)
Corporate whistleblower Richard Mason (Ted Danson) becomes a substitute teacher at an underprivileged New York elementary school, where he empowers his students by teaching them to master chess. As he helps his troubled students overcome their challenges, Mason begins to find peace in his own life. Based on a true story.
September 21: Ridicule (Patrice Leconte, 1996)
A French Baron travels to Versailles to petition King Louis XVI for aid to drain his region’s mosquito-infested swamps. To contend in the King’s court, the unwitting nobleman must win battles of wit, lest he be disgraced and lose any hope of favor. This well-received film stars Charles Berling, Fanny Ardant, Jean Rochefort, and Judith Godrèche. (Film notes: Presented in French with English subtitles. Brief nudity.) Sponsored in partnership with the Mercer Island Sister City Association. Enjoy wine and cheese starting at 6:30 pm, courtesy of Aljoya.
October 12: The Luzhin Defence (Marlene Gorris, 2000)
The gifted but tormented Grandmaster Sascha Luzhin (John Turturro) competes in the match of his life and unexpectedly falls in love with wealthy socialite Natalia Katkov (Emily Watson). Adapted from The Defense by Valdimir Nabokov, this film tells an enthralling story of love, family obligation, mental fragility, and chess genius, set against the backdrop of 1920s Italy.
October 19: Searching for Bobby Fischer (Steven Zaillian, 1993)
A young chess prodigy (Max Pomeranc) is caught between the hardened teaching styles of a top chess coach (Ben Kingsley), who pushes him to become as ruthless as Bobby Fischer, and the undisciplined approach of a street chess hustler (Laurence Fishburne).
October 26: Chess Kids: Special Edition (Lynn Hamrick, 2011)
In 1990, filmmaker Lynn Hamrick turned her camera on a youth chess championship, where Judit Polgar, a Hungarian child prodigy and future top female chess player, competed in a boys-only tournament. Twenty years later, Hamrick revisits many of the competitors she met at that event to find out how chess shaped their lives.
November 9: Brooklyn Castle (Katie Dellamaggiore, 2012) with special guest Elliott Neff
This documentary showcases the remarkable chess team from Intermediate School 318, a below-the-poverty-line inner city school that holds the most national junior high chess championships in the country. Before the screening, discover the many brain benefits of chess with a blindfold demonstration led by National Master Elliott Neff, the film's associate producer and the founder of Chess4Life.
November 16: Dangerous Moves (La Diagonale du fou) (Richard Dembo, 1984)
Generations and ideologies clash when veteran Akiva Liebskind (Michel Piccoli) matches against defector Pavius Fromm (Alexandre Arbatt) in the World Chess Championship. Liv Ullmann and Leslie Caron round out an excellent cast in this Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film. (Film notes: Presented in French with English subtitles.) Sponsored in partnership with the Mercer Island Sister City Association. Enjoy wine and cheese starting at 6:30 pm, courtesy of Aljoya.
November 30: The Chess Players (Shatranj Ke Khilari) (Satyajit Ray, 1977)
Travel to India (the likely birthplace of chess) for iconic filmmaker Stayajit Ray's adaptation of a short story by Mumshi Premshand. As the British East India Company attempts to consolidate imperial control, chess serves as a metaphor and distraction for nobles unable to recognize the plight of their nation. (Film notes: Presented in English without subtitles and Hindi and Urdu with English subtitles.)
December 7: The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet) (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
A fourteenth-century knight (Max von Sydow) returns from the Crusades to find Denmark riddled by Black Plague. When Death arrives for the knight and his companions, he challenges the Grim Reaper to a chess match to reverse their fates. (Film notes: Presented in Swedish with English subtitles.)
December 14: Queen of Katwe (Mira Nair, 2016)
Experience the inspiring true-life story of Phiona Mutesi and Benjamin Mukombya, who rose from poverty in the Kampala slum of Katwe, Uganda, after learning chess from missionary Robert Katende. The players’ success earned them scholarships to attend college here in Washington! This film stars Madina Nalwanga and Ethan Nazario as the chess players, as well as features stunning performances by David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o.
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