Spellbound (2002) Film Review


The Scripps National Spelling Bee is a massive thing in the US. It has coverage on sports channel ESPN and the top competitors are recognized for years to come. Perhaps a little too much pressure for these secondary school students? The film follows eight students in the 1999 competition from different cultural, economic and social backgrounds through their training regime and the various heats that lead to the final in Washington.

I’m torn by this film. It’s definitely a very interesting documentary about a cultural phenomenon that does not exist here in Australia. But while I believe that the filmmakers have attempted to show the competitors in a good light, it was really hard not be judging and somewhat laughing at them. And that’s a bit rough, I think because they are kids. Passion and obsession can often be fascinating, and I guess there is an aspect of going along with it because it is quite relatable. Ultimately, I think I had more empathy for the subjects and their hopes and dreams, and I did enjoy the film; I guess I hope that they all recovered from their journey and hope none were too traumatised by the representations of themselves they saw on-screen.


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