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

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 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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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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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Sep 2004
Format: DVD
Spellbound isn't just about the annual Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington. The movie is also a quite engaging portrait about the lives of everyday American kids. Deliberately chosen from different cultural and economic backgrounds, the eight children portrayed do a great job of showing the rich and diverse tapestry of the American family. Loosely divided into two sections, the first half deals in-depth with their home lives, containing interviews with their parents and siblings, their teachers, and also the children's' efforts to win their respective regional spelling competitions. The second half recounts the big day in Washington, where the suspense of the competition is ratcheted up a notch, and all the kids have to perform under a pressure with the judges, organizers and parents looking on.
The kids are of course terrific - some are in it for the fun and enjoyment while others are taking it very seriously with an unadulterated determination to win. Angela is a gangly brunette and daughter of Mexican laborers in Texas. Nupur lives in Tampa, Florida and is the daughter of immigrants from India. She's a veteran of the 1998 national spelling bee but was eliminated in the third round. Ted, the son of farming parents, is a big, soft-spoken math lover from Rella, Missouri. Emily is a suburban horse rider and singer in a girl's chorus from New Haven, Connecticut. Ashley is a cute and bubbly black girl with a brilliant smile from a poor part of Washington DC. Neil lives in San Clemente, California and is child of wealthy Indian immigrants. Neil trains hard and is pushed by his over achieving father. April is the adorably eccentric daughter of former factory worker, now pub owner in Amber, Pennsylvania.
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