movie film review | chris tookey


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  Spellbound Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
8.29 /10
Harry Altman (pictured), Ted Brigham, Neil Kadakia
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Directed by: Jeffrey Blitz
Written by:

Released: 2002
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 95

Jeffrey Blitz's spellbinding documentary is about eight young (and ethnically diverse) contenders for America's annual national spelling bee. Blitz invites us to meet them, their parents and teachers, and accompany them on their journey to success or failure.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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An outstanding cinematic experience. Here is a funny, life-affirming yet intensely dramatic documentary that celebrates intellect, hard work and all that's best about America as the land of opportunity.

Rightly nominated for an Oscar, Blitz tackles the objection that putting the young through strenuous competition is a sophisticated form of child abuse, but he arrives at the conclusion that it is character-forming, and provides much evidence to back it up.

Not only does learning to spell for a competition give already bright children new impetus to study; competing gives them the chance to cope with disappointments and injustice. Some children get noticeably harder words to spell than others, thanks to the luck of the draw - a fact which makes them splendidly philosophical and, on the whole, gracious both in victory and defeat. Since every life will have its setbacks, this must be one of the most valuable things for anyone to learn.

You may well end up wondering, as I did, why Britainís educational system seems so intent on eradicating competition, and on pretending that the distinction between success and failure doesn't exist.

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