This documentary follows 8 teens and pre-teens as they work their way toward the finals of the Scripps Howard national spelling bee championship in Washington D.C. All work quite hard and practice daily, first having to win their regional championship before they can move on. Interviews include the parents and teachers who are working with them. The competitors not only work hard to get to the finals but face tremendous pressure as the original group of over 250 competitors is whittled down and the words they must spell get ever more difficult. Written by
...this film can be found listed under the definition of "winner." Absolutely wonderful work from first-time director/cinematographer Jeffrey Blitz, "Spellbound" is an engrossing documentary that introduces and follows eight regional Spelling Bee winners to the 1999 national championship in Washington, D.C. Of course, it's about far more than the rote spelling of arcane words; it's about setting goals and pursuing them, following your dreams and your heart's desires, and above all, the value of love and cooperation in achieving what you set out to do. Beautifully structured and paced, the story of these eight kids, all of them heartbreakingly appealing and buoyantly inspiring, will keep you on the edge of your seat as if you were involved in the lexicographical competition yourself. Perhaps I am biased, having had a child involved in a local spelling bee (she lost, and of course I just loved her all the more), but I rank this little sleeper right up there with "Hoop Dreams" and "Crumb" as one of my all-time favorite documentaries. If you don't fall in love with these kids (and their families) and share their agonies and ecstasies all the way through the triumph of the final winner, then I would have to say you have no heart and no soul. The DVD includes three other contestants whose arcs had to be cut from the film for time, but who are equally engaging, as well as a "where are they now?" addendum and a DVD-ROM Hangman's spelling game.
Simply put, not to be missed by anyone interested in the positive aspects of humanity.
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