Review by: Katherine Kaminsky | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Where are they now? updates; Bonus footage
of three other competitors in the Spelling Bee; Audio commentary
by the filmmakers. Trailer; Spelling game from www.canyouspell.com;
Information from the National Literacy Association; Educational
guide; Hangman game.
WITH all the must see movies out right now, find time to catch
Spellbound. This is a real treat of a film. It is a documentary,
directed by Jeff Blitz, about the National Spelling Bee competition
Every year, about nine million American kids, aged between nine
and 16, enter their regional spelling Bee competition. They are
each asked to spell one word to which they may ask the country
of origin and what context the word may be used.
If they spell it correctly, they go through to the next round;
if they get it wrong they are eliminated.
When the numbers dwindle to 249, the surviving children travel
to Washington for a weekend to attend the final. The competition
is then televised across America.
We follow eight children who entered the Spelling Bee in 1999.
We meet their families, learn of their backgrounds, and watch
how they prepare and then cope with the high profile competition.
This is where the documentary deserves the 15 awards it has already
received, as well as last year's Oscar nomination (the Oscar went
to Bowling for Columbine).
The eight kids are exceptional. All from completely different
areas and backgrounds, creating some fascinating contrasts. Most
are first generation families hoping to attain the American dream.
There are two things the spellers have in common, spelling and
feeling alienated from their peers because of their intellect.
Spellbound is wonderfully edited, with past winners of the Spelling
Bee discussing their experience of entering the competition.
We also hear from the teachers as well as the judges, although
the funniest moments involve the over-zealous parents.
There is no way you can sit through this film without rooting
for one of the kids, as well as trying to spell the words they
It is courageous and heart-breaking but, above all, hilarious.
Go and see it.