EVERYONE WANTS THE LAST WORD.
A straight-forward, lauded documentary that follows eight children as they prepare for the 1999 National Spelling Bee. They come from different circumstances and the filmmakers do their best to make us understand them and their motivations, thereby making us invest emotionally in them and root for them at the climactic contest. The parents play a large part in most cases, we realize, pinning their hopes for glory on their kids and maybe pushing them too hard for a competition that has become almost larger than life, at least to non-American viewers. The drama is effectively captured in the faces of the children at the Bee, especially young Harry Altman, an eccentric and super-active kid. He and the other contesters make this film both emotional and very entertaining.
2003-U.S. 97 min. Color. Produced by Jeffrey Blitz, Sean Welch. Directed by Jeffrey Blitz.
Last word: “We found that it is mostly the kids who drag their parents into it. It requires a tremendous effort on the part of the parents, and if their interest was in being a ‘stage parent’, there are easier ways for them to do it. I think that it’s not the spelling skill as such that’s valuable. It’s the feeling that drive, discipline, and dedication pay off. I think many of these kids feel like they’re taking on an impossible quest, and the real victory is in the effort, not in the result. Anecdotally, a majority of spelling champions go on to become doctors. Who knows why, but it is meaningful – that great spellers go on to lead productive and valued lives.” (Blitz, BBC)