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Spellbound (2002 film)

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Director  Jeffrey Blitz
First episode date  March 14, 2002
Country  United States
7.8/10 IMDb

Genre  Documentary
Language  English
Spellbound (2002 film) movie poster
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.


Spellbound (2002 film) movie scenes

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.


Spellbound (2002 film) movie scenes

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 Kadakia

Spellbound (2002 film) movie scenes

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

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

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. [1] The proctor of the Washington Informer regional spelling bee featured in the film is Mac McGarry.

April DeGideo

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.

Harry Altman

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

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

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

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

  • George Thampy was speller # 245 in the bee and was mentioned several times within the film. He misspelled "kirtle" as "curtle" for third place, tying with April DeGideo. Thampy eventually won the 2000 national bee.
  • David Lewandowski finished second place in the spelling bee, spelling "opsimath" as "opsomath". After Davids mistake, Nupur spelled "logorrhea" to win the competition.
  • Allyson Lieberman was originally slated to be featured as one of the spellers in the documentary, but her clips were ultimately left out of the film; the scene involving her can be found in the special features of the DVD. The youngest contestant in the entire 1998 bee, she misspelled "purblind".
  • Frances Taschuk and Ann Foley are shown in the final set of scenes prior to the last round of the spelling bee. Frances misspells "acoelous" and Ann "quinquevir".
  • Vinay Krupadev is in a scene involving Harrys mother feeling "sorry for the boy from Texas who got yenta". She was referring to Vinay, who is actually from Marietta, Ohio, and his pronunciation of "yenta," shown in the film. He eventually spelled it "yente".
  • Jess Altman was mentioned in a scene by Harry Altman for being a terrific speller and that he was disappointed she didnt make the Nationals.
  • Sonia Nagala won the North Dakota bee with the word "butyraceous", but was eliminated in the second round of the Nationals. She is currently taking her MBA at Harvard Business School.
  • References

    Spellbound (2002 film) Wikipedia
    Spellbound (2002 film) IMDb Spellbound (2002 film)