ISSUE #8 FEB 06

Geoffrey Wilkinson

Spellbound

13th April 2004
Spellbound Poster reviewer: Geoffrey Wilkinson
rating: 3 out of 5
directed by: Jeffrey Blitz
written by: N/A
starring: Harry Altman, Angela Arenivar, Ted Brigham, April DeGideo
genre: Documentary
released: 10th October 2003

This film follows 8 different American children through the national spelling bee based in Washington D.C. However to call it a film is a bit misleading since it is more accurately nothing more than a long documentary. There is no visible presenter like the similarly filmed 'Bowling for Columbine', the interviewers are never seen and we rarely hear the questions they ask.

Like most documentaries we start by being introduced to the people being filmed and see some snippets of their family and environment. Since the subject is very academic unsurprisingly we see teachers and school environments or learn that they are home schooled. Various methods of learning the words are used by the different children and despite feeling that the crew were trying to prove how much pressure the children were under it didn't really come through in the film as each child seemed happy enough and as would be expected they worked hard to do their best.

After all eight have been introduced we moved to the nail biting nationals where the top 249 children in America had to compete including the 8 we have already met. This is quite an emotional part of the film where you can see the children with tears in their eyes when they are not sure how to spell the word. To increase suspense just before critical moments previously shot footage with the families is edited back in to see how they were looking at the contest, and what they expected to get out of it.

Much like a film the extended documentary manages to introduce us to the 'characters' supplies some background and their actions during the film then brings us to the much anticipated ending with tense moments before a rather abrupt ending. Despite having film like qualities I still feel this does not make it a good film any more than a creatively edited series of pop idol would be a film.

Itís worth a watch but only if youíre interested in knowing what goes on with American children at a spelling bee. I found it mildly educational not least because of all the big words but not exactly thrilling or clever.