Spellbound Jeffrey Blitz
Published May 01, 2003Spellbound is the compelling Academy Award-nominated documentary film that follows the lives of eight young people as they prepare to compete in the National Spelling Bee Championships in Washington, DC. The participants represent a real cross-section of American life, not only geographically diverse but racially, culturally and socio-economically diverse as well. They are all united by their incredible drive and achievement in the very narrow field of competitive spelling.
Director Jeffrey Blitz does a wonderful job of lovingly introducing each of the youths and their world of family and teachers with brilliant camerawork and a gentle interviewing style that draws out the true personality of each subject. Their stories are universally funny and touching, establishing their unique reasons for dedicating the majority of their time and effort to the pursuit of spelling excellence. After establishing the characters, the film moves to focus on the National Championships. Blitz deftly portrays the harrowing tension inherent in the competition as we watch the participants get eliminated one by one.
Although it is in following the journey of the eight spellers that makes watching Spellbound a totally emotionally engaging experience, the film also makes some attempts to try to give a broader context to the bizarre importance placed on spelling bees in American life, hypothesising that the bees bring together communities through the combination of pride in intellectual achievement and a spirit of healthy competition. (Th!nk)