What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this documentary has some tense and sad scenes. Children are upset when they lose (they are escorted onstage to a "comfort room"). One child uses a mildly bad word.
What's the story?
SPELLBOUND is the true story of the 1999 National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., and especially of eight regional winners in the competition. The eight featured competitors include three children of immigrants (one's father still speaks no English) and a wide range of ethnic and economic backgrounds. The contestants, over 240 of them, are all 8th grade and younger. With their slightly old-fashioned area of expertise, these kids have an engaging sense of adventure, affection, and wonder about words and language. One shows off her huge dictionary almost as big as she is and about to fall to pieces from use, and says she does not think she will ever part with it. Three boys talk about how they lost to a tough contender named Nupur. Ashley tells us she is a "prayer warrior" who feels like her life is a movie. And we get to see every kind of family. All the parents assure their children that they are winners no matter what happens at the national bee, but some do so more convincingly than others. Each family has its own idea of what it means to achieve success and what they think success could mean for their future. One father hires special spelling tutors and runs constant drills. Others look on all but speechless at children whose talents seem as exotic to them as though they had sprouted feathers.
Is it any good?
Every family should see this m-a-r-v-e-l-o-u-s documentary, because it is about so much more than the spelling bee. It is about the strength of American diversity and the commitment of this country to opportunity. It is about ambition, dedication, and courage. It is about finding a dream that speaks to each individual. Most of all, it is about family -- the opportunity to discuss the wide variation in styles of family communication and values is in itself a reason for every family with children to watch this movie together.
Plus, it is one of the most genuinely thrilling, touching, and purely enjoyable movies of the year. The movie is filled with brilliantly observed moments that illuminate the lives of the individuals but also the lives of all families and all dreamers. As we watch these kids, girls towering over boys, more with braces than without, puberty's uneven effects everywhere, many of the kids confessing that they feel all alone in their school, we see them hold on to this mastery of words eclipsing anything an adult can do as a lifeline, or maybe a flashlight, leading them to their adult selves.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about how the families in the movie, especially the immigrant families and those at the lower end of the economic spectrum, see the importance of the spelling bee.