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Spellbound (2002)

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Spellbound follows eight teenagers on their quest to win the 1999 National Spelling Bee.

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 17 wins & 17 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Angela Arenivar ... Herself - Spelling Bee Participant
Ubaldo Arenivar ... Himself - Angela's Father (as Ubaldo)
Jorge Arenivar ... Himself - Angela's Brother (as Jorge)
Scott McGarraugh ... Himself - Ranch Owner (as Mr. McGarraugh)
Lindy McGarraugh ... Herself - Ranch Owner (as Mrs. McGarraugh)
Concepción Arenivar ... Herself - Angela's Mother (as Concepción)
Mrs. Slaughter ... Herself - Angela's Teacher
Neelima Marupudi ... Herself - Potter County Champion (as Neelima)
Nupur Lala ... Herself - Spelling Bee Participant
Ms. Whitehurst ... Herself - Nupur's Teacher
Parag Lala ... Himself - Nupur's Father (as Parag)
Meena Lala ... Herself - Nupur's Mother (as Meena)
Kuna Lala ... Himself - Nupur's Brother (as Kuna)
... Himself - Spelling Bee Participant
Ms. Blair ... Herself - Ted's Teacher
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Storyline

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 garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

EVERYONE WANTS THE LAST WORD See more »


Certificate:

G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Site

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Language:

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Release Date:

10 October 2003 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Agonisma orthografias  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$17,508, 4 May 2003, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$5,728,431, 7 December 2003
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

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Sound Mix:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Spellbound won the Emmy for Cultural/Artistic Programming and Jeffrey Blitz was a nominee for directing. See more »

Goofs

While interviewing Harry in his room the boom mic is deliberately shown after Harry asks "Is that thing edible?" See more »

Quotes

Former Spelling Bee winner: I don't think it really helped me, in my love live; my nascent love life. I think that having won something like that could be regarded as being a significant liability.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Special thanks to The Blitz Family, The Arenivar Family, The Brigham Family, The DeGideo Family, The Kadakia Family, The Lala Family, The Lieberman Family, The Natarajian Family, The Pagels Family, The Stagg Family, The Stoecker Family, The Thampy Family, The White Family, Linda Loeffler & Family and all the participants of The National Spelling Bee. See more »

Connections

Featured in The 50 Greatest Documentaries (2005) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
A surprisingly suspenseful and compelling documentary
21 July 2004 | by See all my reviews

When one says that they are excited to see a documentary on the 8th graders' National Spelling Bee, that person is met with a look and an `Oooookaaaay….' I was on the receiving end of these looks for the last two years when I wanted to see `Spellbound', Jeffrey Blitz's 2002 documentary about the `spelling elite'. I finally got my wish recently and was thrilled that it met (and exceeded) my high expectations for the film.

For `Spellbound', Blitz traveled around the United States and chose eight competitors, aged 11-14, to profile before the eventual climax of the actual spelling bee. We see the home lives of the eight students, who range from poverty to upper middle class affluence, single parent families, and two-parent homes. There are even Archie and Edith Bunker reincarnated as the parents of one girl, and another girl whose parents, though having lived in the United States for over twenty years, don't speak English. Though these students come from fairly different backgrounds, they seem to be treated slightly different because of their intelligence, and therefore descend upon Washington D.C. for the Spelling Bee with a commonality.

`Spellbound' is Jeffrey Blitz's first film and he already exhibits a masterful eye for the documentary genre. Though the profiles are fairly routine, the second half of the film, the Spelling Bee itself, is so compelling that I felt the same effect as your average suspense film. The viewer is naturally led to pick a `favorite', though not guided to any specific child. My `favorite' was knocked out fairly early and I truly felt something. There is nothing fancy about the camera work, there are no stark white backgrounds or a Phillip Glass score, or a reactionary topic. What I felt while watching this film was that I was sitting among the audience and letting the camera be my guide – one of the most important elements of a good documentary film.

Whether you think the subject matter isn't worthy of an hour and a half treatment, or didn't notice it in the year of `Bowling for Columbine' (which beat `Spellbound' to win the Best Documentary Oscar for 2003) I would recommend picking up this film. It's heart breaking at times, but mostly, inspirational because some of these kids have more maturity in one arm than a lot of adults I know, and their grace under pressure is both awe-inspiring and something to aspire to.

--Shelly


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