7.6/10
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104 user 98 critic
Trailer
2:20 | Trailer

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

Director:

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

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Cast

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

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official Site

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

10 October 2003 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Agonisma orthografias See more »

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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:

Blitz/Welch See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

|

Sound Mix:

Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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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

Ted's Mom: I think Ted's got the advantage of parents, who think he's great irregardless.
See more »

Crazy Credits

There is no cast list; a cast member is considered credited if a subtitle or an item in the film prints the name (or partial name). See more »

Connections

References Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Wizard film, weird country
15 April 2005 | by paul2001sw-1See all my reviews

In one sense, the U.S. National Spelling Bee is a strange thing, a freakish competition for freaks to take part in, and designed to make them only more freakish. You don't have to understand the words to win, you merely have to spell them, and the winner would seem to have proved little else than their willingness to work hard for no social benefit, and their ability to withstand extreme pressure. Make no mistake, the kids featured in this documentary are bright and talented, but one can't help but wonder whether such ruthless competition, or the attitude that they are in some sense a "gifted" elite, is really good for society or for the individuals themselves.

But it's not the competition that makes 'Spellbound', a documentary about 1999's contest, so gripping (we follow eight of the 249 finalists, but the film is sympathetic to them all, and does not encourage us to set one against the rest). Rather, this comes from the way the 'Spellbound' reminds us what a diverse country America is: ethnically, socially, physically. These kids come from all over, and while on one hand we see a very unusual slice of American life in this film, it's nonetheless a surprisingly broad one. Some of the contrasts are obvious: a family of Indian descent say that in America, if you work hard, you will succeed; but we also meet a family of Mexican descent (who consider that they have worked hard and succeeded, but who have little compared with the Indians), and a black family in a grim district of Washington (arguably failing to thrive after several hundred years). Yet in spite of their differences, their children are all (give or take the final few words) as good as each other (at least when it comes to spelling). Today, social mobility in America is lower than in Europe; but the old American dream, it seems, lives on in the spelling bee. And although the extreme preparation of most competitors appears to place a ludicrously inflated value on the work ethic, and though some (though not all) of the parents are frighteningly pushy, there's also something quite sweet, in this age of guns and violence, in such a fierce competition fought only with words.

'Spellbound' is filmed without tricks, or any special artiness, but nonetheless offers an unexpected insight into contemporary American society. But please let us not copy them and bring the bee back here!


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