long, firmly established tradition of black men (and women too) playing chess.
Just go to any park on a summer day in any city in this country, and you’ll find black people of all ages and classes deeply engrossed in playing
not to mention the countless black chess clubs all over the country, as well as the
growing ranks of black chess players and grandmasters who are seemingly getting
younger every year.
But when was
the last time you’ve seen a film about black chess players? If the media had their way, you would think
they don’t exist, and that they’re an anomaly; that chess is only a game for white
people. (And come to think of it, has there been any black chess player profiled on a black TV network like BET?)
of course, is quite different from what the media present (or doesn’t present), and the
new upcoming documentary “Sideline,” which will
make its premiere at the Black Harvest Film Festival in Chicago this
August, aims to correct those misconceptions, as well as explore the original
African origins of chess created by the Moors who brought it to Europe.
also reveals the little known, and fascinating history of black grandmasters
in America, starting back in the 19th century.
Directed by filmmaker Kirby Ashley, who is himself an avid chess player, and who appears in the film, “Sideline” had been in the planning stages for
several years, but then an event took place that changed Ashley and compelled
him to push forward with the film.
Trayvon Martin verdict came down, I was distraught. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t
sleep, I couldn’t believe it. I felt compelled to do something, but I didn’t
know what to do,” Ashley says. “I’m not exactly a political activist. Marches, demonstrations
and petitions ain’t exactly my thing. The only thing I knew for sure is that I
didn’t want to do anything destructive.”
He adds that: “After
brooding over it for 2 months, I got the idea of making a documentary about the history of black chess players and dedicating it to Trayvon Martin. It was my
hope to show a different side of the African American male, a more cerebral
side. I wanted to depict us as sentient beings with a lot to contribute. I
wanted America to see us the way we see ourselves. That’s why I made this movie.”
After its premiere
screening this summer at Black Harvest, Ashley hopes to continue screening the
film on the film festival circuit both here and overseas.