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Spellbound (2002)

Cast: Harry Altman, Harry Altman, Angela Arenivar, more...
Director: Jeffrey Blitz, Jeffrey Blitz
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Columbia TriStar
Genre: Documentary
Running Time: 97 min.
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: French
    see additional details...

Eight youngsters vie for one of the most hotly contested academic awards in the United States in this documentary. Every spring, the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee attracts students from all over the United States, and filmmaker Jeff Blitz follows eight promising entrants as they journey to Washington, D.C., in hopes of claiming the national championship and a 10,000-dollar prize. Neil Kadakia, from California, has spent months training for the event with the help of his parents, computer tutorials, and professional coaches. Angela Arenivar grew up in a small Texas town with her parents, who immigrated to America from Mexico; Angela's skills as a speller are self-taught, a remarkable achievement since her parents speak English only with great difficulty. Nupur Lala is determined to go to the finals in the 1999 competition, even though three boys from her Florida Junior High are determined to stop her. Ted Brigham grew up in a rural Missouri community where his intelligence has made him stick out like a sore thumb; both Ted and his teachers hope the National Spelling Bee will give him a chance to prove his gifts to his peers. Ashley White lives in a housing project in Washington, D.C., and has risen to the spelling championships largely through the help of her teachers and her own determination. April DeGideo comes from a low-income family in Pennsylvania and is determined to use the Spelling Bee as a stepping stone to a better life. Emily Stagg comes from a wealthy Connecticut family and manages to squeeze her study for the Spelling Bee in between riding lessons and practicing with her choral group. And Harry Altman, from New Jersey, wavers between joy and agony as he makes his way through the competition. Spellbound won the Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the 2003 South by Southwest Film Festival, and received a nomination in the same category at the 2003 Academy Awards. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Special Features:

  • Filmmakers' Commentary
  • Bonus Footage
  • Where Are They Now? - Updates on all 8 profiled spellers
  • Interactive Hangman Game
  • Educational Guide
  • Theatrical Trailers

GreenCine Member Reviews

Spelling success! by SBergfalk February 15, 2006 - 10:28 AM PST
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
Spellbound is charming and difficult at the same time. Part of the power of this documentary is that it reminds us of what being young is like. As viewers, we are reminded of nervous tension, awkwardness, not fitting in, and the consequences of trying too hard or not trying hard enough.

In addition, the documentary has a fascinating subtext about economic class. Seeing the different opportunities and resources that each of the competitors have access to reinforces the fact that our country is not the ideal land of opportunity.

I found myself rooting for all of the competitors, and I felt sad when they misspelled a word and were out of the competition. The big payoff moment is seeing the winner and sharing in that success. You have to like the fact that the filmmaker is sympathetic toward the spellers and keeps a positive tone throughout the film.

Those poor kids! by rpmfla June 24, 2005 - 8:42 AM PDT
0 out of 3 members found this review helpful
This documentary is quirky, funny, and charming. I wouldn't say it was a great film, but it was fun.

I can't believe the amount of work some of these kids put into this! I had no idea the level of intense studying that some of these kids go through. I could understand if they got a fully paid college scholarship or something. Some of those parents need to chill!

Hmmm...did I spell anything wrong in this review?

I know what you're thinking by kateadelle March 15, 2004 - 10:27 PM PST
8 out of 12 members found this review helpful
because I thought the same thing. "A film about a spelling bee - sounds boring". But it really isn't. In fact, it had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I can't say enough great things about this film.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.40)
394 Votes
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