My wife and I went to see the aptly-titled Spellbound (2002) yesterday. I must say that I’ve never watched a documentary that had me on the edge of my seat the way this story did. The film follows a group of eight children (11-13 years old) who are contestants in the 1999 Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. The filmmakers show us their home lives, their backgrounds, introduce us to to their parents and teachers, and just as we begin to root for them, they whisk us off to the competition where, along with almost 250 others, all but one will be eliminated.
It was so refreshing to see a film about “good” kids, instead of troubled ones. To be honest, it actually has me thinking about teaching again. I trained as a teacher, and taught middle-school aged kids for my placement. There’s something about kids this age that just appeals to me. Still goofy and child-like, they’re also realizing their intellectual powers and indulging their curiosity. Spellbound was thoroughly enjoyable. As with all documentaries, this might be hard to find, but it’s worth the effort.
This one actually may get better when it comes to DVD. Because it was filmed four years ago, it might be interesting to get an update on the kids now, some of whom would be graduating from high school this year. Another reason is that I think it looked like it was filmed in 16mm, so it doesn’t really benefit from being blown up for the big screen.