Zone38 Presents...
Letters to the World

01-Jun-2003

My opinions on Spellbound

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 6:19 pm

Well, I finally managed to see Spellbound this afternoon.

What can I say? The critics are right. Even if you’re the sort who would prefer to have nothing to do with spelling bees, you’ve got to admit that they do make for quite riveting viewing. One letter, just one letter off, and you’re out… no second chance until the following year’s bee (if you’re even eligible the following year, that is).

The contestants whom the documentary follows are actually quite a broad slice of American life; indeed, the film quite overtly debunks the misconception that contestants’ parents are all doctors, lawyers, and other wealthy types. The spelling bee truly is a manifestation of the so-called American Dream, as so many of the interviewees comment: it’s just as likely for the daughter of a bartender or of a farmhand to win as it is for the son of a wealthy doctor.

So yes, it’s a very interesting film, with enough suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat. But as a former National Spelling Bee contestant myself (1997, for those who are curious), I only found it more enthralling– and quite nostalgic, at that. First of all, I could very much associate with the stars of the film, so to speak; I knew what it felt like to be an outcast, for the most part, back in middle school, and like them, I felt an unusual sense of camaraderie at the spelling bee (though admittedly, I’m also glad I don’t have to study long, involved word lists anymore). The bee really was a special event for me, and by the time they showed the first panoramic shot of the Grand Hyatt lobby in the film, I had already begun to shed a few tears of nostalgia. That feeling only strengthened as the filmmakers went through the course of the bee… ah, yes, the inflatable dictionary doll, perhaps one of the best known bits of Bee memorabilia… the various views of the ballroom in which the bee was held… those words! how could I forget them!… ah, memories…

Anyway, go see it if you get the chance… especially if you’ve participated in any contests such as spelling bees. You won’t be disappointed.

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