May 2003
Spellbound

Reviewed by Wilson Morales

Spellbound
Distributor: ThinkFilm
Director: Jeffrey Blitz
Producers: Jeffrey Bitz and Sean Welch
Running Time: 97 min
The Spellers: Harry Altman, Ted Brigham, Neil Kadakia, Emily Stagg, Angela Arenivar, April Degideo, Nupur Lala, Ashley White

     May is usually the time when students get ready to take their SATs in preparation for college. There are two parts to the exam, verbal and math. With the verbal, the knowledge of words and definitions is very important. For some, memories come flooding back to when they were in the 4th or 5th grade and vying to ace the spelling bee quiz teachers usually gave out. It was a time when as a youngster, they wanted to be the best speller in the class. If one could go back in time and think about those days, fond memories would be recalled as they will remember the words that didnít put them at the top. This is a situation that continues to go on everywhere in the United States, but the path to greatness is usually not explored, until now. Nominated last year for an Academy Award for best documentary is Jeffrey Blitzís inspirational film Spellbound, which shares the stories of 8 kids who, through hard work and support from their parents, competed in the National Spelling Bee.

Director Blitz and his producer Sean Welch spent quite a deal of time searching for kids who had previously competed in the National Spelling Bee. In the hopes that these kids would return to the nationals proved fruitful as the film follows 8 kids from different cities and different racial and economic backgrounds. One of the kids, Ashley, is the oldest daughter of a single mom in the D.C projects. With prayers to her Lord as her guide, Ashley hopes to win at the National Spelling Bee to give her life focus. Emily, who comes from New Haven, CT, seems to be a regular at the nationals, having lost twice. She hopes this will be the year her luck pans out. Angela, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, has an amazing story. Currently living in Texas, her parents donít speak English so Angela has had to learn on her own, and excel in spelling without the benefit of owning a computer or being helped by teachers after school like the other students. The National Spelling Bee has been covered on television recently on ESPN to gain widespread attention and for this 8 kids the opportunity to be the best in the country could be a dream come true.

The amazing thing about this documentary is the stories behind the kids. To follow these kids and see their grueling path at studying SAT words at an early age is challenging yet uplifting. Everyone has a dream at being the best in something. For some, itís in a sport, and for others, itís intelligence. The journey to the dream is uplifting and rewarding for everyone wins. In Spellbound, there are no losers for these kids are the future of tomorrow.