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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Spelling the Dream is a documentary that spotlights four kids at the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee, the country's most prestigious spelling competition. The filmmakers follow the four hopefuls (the youngest is 7, the oldest 14) leading up to the event, taking a look at their preparation, commitment, and family involvement. The kids are interesting, gifted, sometimes funny, and unique, and they all demonstrate strong levels of perseverance. Plus, unless you know the outcome of the 2017 contest, this wholesome, family-friendly film is enjoyably suspenseful, too.
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What's the story?
Shourav, Ashrita, Tejas, and Akash are committed to being the best competitors they can be in SPELLING THE DREAM. All four are working toward the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee, where they hope to compete with the best spellers in the United States for the ultimate win -- or at least a chance at that win. Teens Shourav (age 14) and Tejas (13) are seasoned veterans; they've won school titles, regional titles, and even competed in The Big One (Scripps) before. Nine-year-old Ashrita is realistic about her chances but filled with excitement at the prospect of simply participating. Seven-year-old Akash is just starting out, but he's confident and willing to practice for hours to make his mark. All of them are. Director Sam Rega and his team take viewers into the spellers' homes, meet their dedicated families, get in touch with the forces that drive each of the kids to excellence, then stay with them through the electrifying national competition.
Is it any good?
What could be more delightful than spending time with four bright, engaging, confident kids, an "A-team" of wonderfully brainy spelling bee champs? The fact that they're all first-generation Americans only adds luster to their impressive accomplishments. Spelling the Dream is a celebration of those kids, beautifully executed, warmhearted, and very, very satisfying. With clear themes of perseverance, it's a celebration of hard work, supportive families, and doing your best to achieve a goal.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how movies broaden the cultural horizons of young audiences. Before you saw Spelling the Dream, how much did you know about first-generation Indian American kids whose parents came to the U.S. from South Asia? Did you learn anything new about the experience of being first-generation in America? If you are Indian American, did you feel the movie reflected your culture accurately, and in a positive or negative light? If you are not, what did you learn? Either way, how are these familis similar to yours? How are they different?
The children in this movie are immigrants. Do you feel the movie shows their contributions to American society in a positive or a negative light? What are some examples?
Pick one of the spotlighted students in the movie -- Ashrita, Tejas, Akash, or Shourav. What valuable character strengths does that student have? Now, pick one of those traits and show why it was important to him or her.
The kids here like to think of spelling bees as a "sport" and were excited that the final event would be broadcast live on ESPN. In what ways are spelling competitions like sporting events? Do you think that challenging the mind is as challenging as other physical skills? Why or why not?
- On DVD or streaming: June 3, 2020
- Cast: Shourav Dasari, Ashrita Gandhari, Tejas Muthusamy, Akash Vukoti
- Director: Sam Rega
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Middle School
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 82 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: May 9, 2021
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