Spellbound (2002 film)
Director Jeffrey Blitz
First episode date March 14, 2002
Country United States
|Release date 2002|
Initial release April 30, 2003 (New York City)
Cast Emily Stagg, Nupur Lala, Ted Brigham
Nominations Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature
Similar movies Afghan Star, The Short Game, Stacker, Racing Dreams, The Prestige, Hitman
Tagline Everyone wants the last word.
Eight youthful competitors, sponsored by their hometown newspapers, travel with their families to Washington, D.C., to compete in the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Now in the national spotlight and under heavy pressure to perform from parents, teachers and their audience, the children struggle to advance toward the championship and its accompanying scholarships and cash prizes while approaching competitive spelling with the focus and intensity of Olympic athletes.
- Neil Kadakia
- Emily Stagg
- Ashley White
- April DeGideo
- Harry Altman
- Angela Arenivar
- Nupur Lala
- Ted Brigham
- Other notable spellers
Spellbound is a 2002 documentary that was directed by Jeffrey Blitz. The film follows eight competitors in the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Documentary Feature; Yana Gorskayas editing won the ACE Eddie award for best editing of documentary. Spellbound won the Emmy for Cultural/Artistic Programming and Jeffrey Blitz was nominated for directing. In 2007, it was included as #4 of the "IDAs Top 25 Documentaries" of all-time by the members of the International Documentary Association. Frank Neuhauser, winner of the first National Spelling Bee held in 1925, also appears in the film.
Spellbound follows eight teenagers on their quest to win the 1999 National Spelling Bee.
The spellers were Neil Kadakia, Emily Stagg, Ashley White, April DeGideo, Harry Altman, Angela Arenivar, Nupur Lala and Ted Brigham. As they appear from left to right on the DVDs cover:
Neil (as speller # 139) missed "hellebore" in the bee to get ninth place. Other words Neil spelled include: encephalon, desecration, mercenary, Darjeeling, and hypsometer. He was sponsored by the Orange County Register. Neil is a graduate of UC Berkeley. Before he went to college, he went on a jet ski expedition with his father and his sister, Shivani, also a speller. He is currently the COO of Greens Global, a real estate company based out of San Clemente, CA. On July 3, 2011, he married Archana Sheth, also a UC Berkeley graduate. He is also an avid chess player, and has earned over 15 chess trophies in his life.
His grandfather paid 1000 people in India to pray for him.
Emily Stagg (speller # 148) was sponsored by the New Haven Register in New Haven, Connecticut and spelled: seguidilla, disclaimant, kookaburra, viand, apocope, brunneous, clavecin (spelled incorrectly as "clavison"). She came in 6th place. In 2006, as a junior in Carleton College, she wrote an op-ed article for the New York Times questioning the usefulness of the National Spelling Bee.
Ashley White (speller 149) represented The Washington Informer in Washington, DC in the spelling bee. Following Ashleys teenage pregnancy (she was 18), a marketing consultant who had seen the movie managed to rally support from other viewers of the documentary to help Ashley into Howard University.  The proctor of the Washington Informer regional spelling bee featured in the film is Mac McGarry.
April DeGideo, who lives in Ambler, Pennsylvania, participated in the 1998 and 1999 bees, in the latter of which she placed third, representing the Times Herald of Norristown, Pennsylvania. April graduated in 2007 from New York University with a degree in Journalism.
Many critics who reviewed Spellbound singled out Altman (speller # 8) as its most interesting "character". Yet in the finals Altman is stumped by the word banns. Roger Ebert wrote that he "has so many eccentricities that hed be comic relief in a teenage comedy... He screws his face up into so many shapes while trying to spell a word that its a wonder the letters can find their way to the surface." He went to the Academy for Engineering and Design Technology in Hackensack, New Jersey. In autumn 2005, he enrolled in the University of Chicago. In 2014 Harry completed a PhD in Mathematics, focusing on integer complexity.
Angela Arenivar represented the Amarillo Globe-News in the 1998 and 1999 bees. Angela graduated from Texas A&M University in 2007 with a bachelors degree in Spanish and earned a masters in Spanish from the University of New Mexico in 2009. She has taught Spanish in Texas public high schools. Angela now attends Texas A&M University pursuing her Ph.D. in Hispanic Studies.
Nupur Lala was the champion of the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee (as speller # 155), spelling "logorrhea" to win. Nupur won the bee against David Lewandowski, a speller from Indiana who misspelled "opsimath." She turned down an MTV reality show that would have followed her college years. In 2003, she entered University of Michigan at Ann Arbor to study brain and cognitive sciences and pre-medical studies and graduated in 2007 with a degree in Brain, Behavior and Cognitive Science. In the fall of 2014 she entered the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Ted Brigham was speller # 1. He represented the Rolla Daily Record of Rolla, Missouri. One of the more notable stories from his experience is the congratulations posted by students on the marquee in front of his high school in which "champ" was misspelled (presumably as an ironic joke) as "chapm". Ted attended medical school in Kansas City, Missouri until his mysterious death in December 2007.
Other notable spellers
ReferencesSpellbound (2002 film) Wikipedia
Spellbound (2002 film) IMDb Spellbound (2002 film) themoviedb.org