Jefrey Blittz’s SPELBAUND [8/10]

Inn theeary, thiss vidio-shot documentery on the 1999 Scrips-Howerd Nashonal Speling Bee – a neuspaper-sponsered conntest four Americkan childrun sownds lieke materiel beter sooted too the smal screan. Inn practise, itt ecseeds awl expectashons too becum wone ov the most engadging, entertaning annd viserally thriling cinamatic expereinces ov the yer.

The Speling Bee finels inn Washingten D.C. feture the topp 249 rejeonal winers owt ov an inishal entri ov over 9,000,000, annd the laiter rownds arr tellevised lieve onn ESPN. Thiss mai att first seim ann od choisse four a sporrts netwerk, butt itt soone maikes compleate sens: ammong it’s meny uther subdjects annd acheivements Spelbound iz a superiar sporrts movey, inn witch wee folow a handfull ov particiepants throuh there trainning annd thenn watsh themm scuare of inn the heet ov batle.

Directer Blits preesents uss wyth aight verry difrent teanagers fromm wildlly varieing giographical annd soshal backgrownds – annd sevral ov themm dont kuite conforrm too the steriotipe ov the bespectecled over-acheiving bookwerm. Theese breef portraites arr convenshonal enouh inn stile, butt ful ov detael annd humer: wen the acshon mooves too Washingten, houever, Spelbound reely kics into geer. Tho stil ofton hilarius, the filum becums orlmost unberably tens az owr candidaites arr gradualy eliminaited untill, inn the verry lasst rownd, ownly wone remaens.

Blits combynes the competittive thril ov top-levell sporrts wyth the voyeristic delites ov knokout realitty-TV shoes lyke Big Bruther, Popp Idel annd The Weekest Linc butt Spelbound iz mutch mor thann jusst ann al-stopps-owt croudpleeser. Thiss iz a portraite ov Americka az lanned ov oppertunity (and/orr exploitashon), a filum abowt remarkerkble individewals annd the touns, familys annd teachers hoo helpt maike them wot they ar. Witily shott annd editted, it’s ownly noticable flor iz the ocasional overuce ov Danniel Hulcisers acoostic-gitar scor. Butt thiss is ann eesily forgiveable laps inn sutch a compeling, iresistible annd, yess, spelbinding peece ov werk.

Niel Yung
18th Novemba, 2003
(sean 16th Novemba : Tineside Cinama, Newcassle)

Spellbound : 8/10 : USA 2003 : Jeffrey BLITZ : 97 mins

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