A film by Jeffrey Blitz

Spellbound is an Academy Award nominated film (Best Documentary) that focuses on eight children who are competing in the 1999 National Spelling Bee. We are given a look at the kids as they prepare for the Regional Spelling Bee. Each kid wins the regional and goes on to the National Bee. The first half of the movie is introduction. We are given a fairly in depth look into the lives of each of the eight kids: Harry Altman, Angela Arenivar, Ted Brigham, April DeGideo, Neil Kadakia, Nupur Lala, Emily Stagg, and Ashley White. This opening part shows how each child (the child must be in eighth grade or below, and be younger than 16 years of age) prepared for the spelling bees, what they study, and what their lives are like. Some of the kids are more interesting than others. I know that is a bad thing to say about real children, but I think it is valid when we talk about the movie. After the segments on five kids I start wondering when the actually Spelling Bee will begin and how many kids are left to introduce. I understand that this is necessary because this distinguishes them from the other children participating in the Bee.

Halfway through the movie we get to the National Spelling Bee. We follow each of the kids through the opening rounds and while we do see the other kids in the Bee, the most time is spent on our eight subjects. As we move into higher rounds, some of the subjects miss a word and are eliminated. After each elimination we hear the responses from the parents and the contestant and without exception they are positive responses. There is joy as the kids do well and they is disappointment when one is eliminated (I had a couple of favorites throughout the movie), but by the end this documentary made me care about an event that I would never have given a second thought to.

Since I am somewhat bookish, I loved this documentary. It was fascinating, interesting, and presented a well told story of the National Spelling Bee. Spellbound is an absolutely terrific documentary and is well worth your time to watch.