Spellbound 2002

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(15) IMDb 7.7/10
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An award winning documentary, this is the journey of eight competitive youngsters living in hope of becoming the National Spelling Bee champion. Director Jeff Blitz turns the cameras to the backgrounds and study methods of these driven young people, which vary dramatically - from April, who studies a dictionary eight hours a day, to Neil, whose grandfather has paid people in India to pray for him to win.

Starring:
Angela Arenivar, Ted Brigham
Rental Formats:
DVD

Product Details

Discs
  • Feature universal
Runtime 1 hour 36 minutes
Starring Angela Arenivar, Ted Brigham, Harry Altman
Director Jeffrey Blitz
Genres Documentary
Studio CINEMA CLUB
Rental release Limited availability
Main languages English

Other Formats

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Helen Jenkins on 9 Jan 2005
Format: DVD
For the first ten minutes of Spellbound you could be forgiven for assuming that this is another sarcastic slice of American life from Christopher Guest - some of the characters featured in the opening scenes could so easily have been plucked from 'Best in Show'. But as the laughter subsides, you realise that this truly is a very watchable documentary and a great insight into what is an important part of American society for thousands of kids (and their scary parents) - the national Spelling Bee.
The documentary follows eight kids from very different social and economic backgrounds as they prepare for, and then compete in the Bee. The dedication and determination shown by the competitors is extraordinary, whilst the pressure they are put under during the actual contest makes you wonder whether it is all worth it.
All in all, this is a very enjoyable documentary which reveals a snapshot of American life rarely touched upon and little known about in the UK.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Westley on 17 Mar 2004
Format: DVD
This extraordinary documentary follows eight youngsters as they prepare for the 1999 annual National Spelling Bee. If you've ever watched it on ESPN, then you've seen the unique spellers who often last to the final stages. "Spellbound" highlights brilliantly the ways in which these youngsters and their families are exceptional. The eight youngsters, their families, and their hometowns are profiled separately; these narratives are by turns funny, inspiring, and heart-wrenching. Among the more amazing stories is Angela Arevivar, whose parents came to the U.S. illegally from Mexico and don't speak English. Her father, however, sees clearly that Angela's success justifies leaving his home country, and he accompanies her proudly to the bee. Aside from these emotionally resonant stories, young Harry Altman nearly steals the show with his wacky humor, including his bizarre imitation of a musical robot.
After introducing the youths and their families, the documentary accounts the actual bee. The tension is nearly unbearable when the spellers are given a difficult word, and seeing them eliminated is heart-wrenching. The documentary swells to a remarkable finale, due to the skillful editing by Yana Gorskaya and the debut work of director, Jeffrey Blitz. In addition, "Spellbound" is filled with amazing triumphs and heart-breakers. Hearing Ashley White's single, disadvantaged mother explain that the greatest moment of her life was seeing her daughter crowned champion at the city spelling bee is sure to leave a lump in your throat. Another warm moment is when a mother discusses how her child is somewhat of an outcast in her school but that she's popular at the bee.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sebastian Fernandez on 17 Mar 2004
Format: DVD
Every year people across USA get to watch live the National Spelling Bee competition, which gathers the 249 "lucky" kids who survived from the total of 9 million who started the path. This movie presents the journey of eight kids to get to the Nationals, how their peers, parents and teachers react and how these children manage to handle the pressure.
One of the thoughts I had when I was watching this movie was how difficult it must be for some of these kids to live with the high expectations their inner circle imposes upon them. Of course, the burden is a lot heavier in some cases than in others, but in all the examples shown, one gets the idea that the level of nervousness is a lot higher than in any other activity the children may participate in. For example, in the case of football, there may be situations in a game in which a player is under pressure, but this usually does not last long, the kid has the support from other teammates and the responsibility shifts among players. In the case of the spelling bee, one mistake and it's over!
In some cases the expectations of the fathers are tremendous. Neil spells 7,000 to 8,000 words a day when he is close to a competition. His mother comments: "When you fight in a war everybody has the same goal". His father tutors him when he can, and pays for several tutors, one for each different root language. In my opinion this can only be detrimental for Neil, and you can see his fear every time he has to go up to the microphone and spell. On the other hand, you have kids like Harry, who is very talkative and joking all the time, plays the guitar and studies spelling only one hour to one and a half hours per day.
I enjoyed this movie because I think it may present a reality check for a lot of parents that have their kids in spelling competitions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 Jun 2004
Format: DVD
Do you know those surprising times that you go to the cinema to watch a documentary and it turns out to be way better than any film? For me, watching Spellbound was like this. I found it moving, sad, joyful and a film that offers a deeper view into the American way of life than most other films.
But be prepared to be shocked. The person I went to see it with absolutely hated it, she found it almost torturous to the children involved and went away feeling sullenly depressed.
So the same film can evoke two such contrary emotions? It must be good!!
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