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Spellbound (2002)

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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

In 2007, it was added to "IDA's Top 25 Documentaries" of all-time by the International Documentary Association ranked #4. 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

Harry Altman: Does this sound like a musical robot?
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

See more »

User Reviews

 
The Thrill Of The Bee
9 August 2004 | by flickershowsSee all my reviews

NOTE TO SELF: No typos allowed in this review!

I was an excellent speller in school. I thought I was still pretty good now...until the pre-teen dynamos in 'Spellbound' left me in the dust. As 'Bowling For Columbine's chief competition for the 2002 Best Documentary Oscar, this modest gem about 8 contenders for the '99 National Spelling Bee is thrilling. Read that sentence again. A documentary about spelling is thrilling. Wow! How? Is it gripping to see a kid standing in front of a microphone, desperately trying to figure out how to spell words that most of us can't even pronounce? You bet it is. Who needs guns and explosions? THIS is tension.

When one of the girls crumbles and misspells a word, my heart sank. Really, how can you not root for all of these kids? Each entrant in the competition is a super-smart youngster, and it's not cheesy to say they're all winners for having gotten to the National Bee in the first place. Director Jeffrey Blitz can't focus on all of the spellers, so he chooses to highlight 5 girls and 3 boys. We see them at home as they & their families give us the low-down on what makes these brainiacs tick. Then it's off to the Bee, where it's high drama as errors are made and the field is whittled down, one by one.

I was cheering for all of Blitz's star spellers, but Harry Altman was my favourite. He's a hyperactive weirdo and I liked him immediately. Harry is the stand-out oddball in a group of diligent, nerdy types who share the stage. As engaging as he is, it's wonderful that this contest allows for quiet, shy, so-called geeks to be stars. This is the Super Bowl for scholars and it showcases kids from all backgrounds. Plus, there are about as many girls as there are boys. Truly, if you're a great speller, that's good enough.

'Spellbound' is the rare documentary that's more entertaining than it is informative. The kids reveal a great deal about themselves in the interviews, but the film is always building to the climactic moment when one of the last two children makes a mistake and the other wins the crown. You might be surprised by the result, although you shouldn't be. It's almost a 'Hoosiers' moment when the winning speller clinches the title. Every single kid in this movie is a better speller than anybody I know. If they want a job, I could use a proof-reader...even if that proof-reader is a lot smarter than me.


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