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September 07, 2003

Better than Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND is among his more disappointing efforts. A clunky romance played with a background of cheap psychobabble, it's only entertainment being the admittedly hackneyed dream sequence crafted with Salvador Dali.

Happily, the memory of that film can now be replaced with the identically titled documentary, which follows 8 contestants as they make their way to the 1999 National Spelling Bee. It's an excellent work, demonstrating yet again that the most interesting work in film right now is happening in documentary.

I'll refrain from offering much of a review, as you can read what people about think about this film all over the net. Suffice to say you should see it -- it's exciting, engaging, and endearing. The children all have something worth seeing, and you'll find yourself biting your nails throughout the scenes of the finals.

I spent some time this morning Googling the various featured spellers, and found some interesting stuff.

A news article catching up with Emily, Nupur, Angela, and April.

The speller I rooted most for is Angela Arenivar, the awkwardly bright daughter of Mexican illegal immigrants. It's perhap cliched to say this, the story of her and her family is a deeply American one, the parents struggling to provide a better life for their children, but never themselves assmilating, the children free to make their own way through their own merits.

Angela was raised in a Perryton,TX which, considering Amarillo is the nearest big city, must resemble the sticks. Calling itself "The Wheatheart of the Nation", it appears to be primarily an industrial and agricultural town, probably economically depressed. So it was with some pleasure that through Google I found out that the school newspaper for which Angela was editor-in-chief, El Sombrero, won a National Scholastic Press Award for Online Pacemaker (essentially, best student paper web site), an honor shared with school papers in San Jose, CA and Riverside, CA, both of which are communities far better off than Perryton. (And El Sombrero beat out papers from Palo Alto and San Francisco, too).

Here's an interview with Angela from earlier this year.

April DeGideo, the stonefaced pessimist with the Bunker-like family, was celebrated in her home town when the film opened there. (Scroll down a bit).

Nupur Lala is now 18 and in Arkansas.

An interesting look into some accomplishments of Neil Kadakia and his big sister Shivani.

Posted by peterme at September 7, 2003 01:40 PM

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your "identitally titled documentary" link doesn't.

Posted by: BJMe at September 8, 2003 08:37 AM

thanks so much for posting this. i loved that film and loved the kids in it -- it's great to hear that they're off to college and are doing such cool things. i love that april degideo is going to nyu for journalism. too great.

Posted by: molly at September 8, 2003 01:48 PM

(I've now fixed the link.)

Posted by: peterme at September 8, 2003 03:09 PM

Wow, well I just saw Spellbound last night (it's only recently opened in Australia). April reminds me so much of myself when I was her age.. I'm 18 now, I guess she is just a bit younger. She's going for journalism? That's cool. It was scary how much I was like her at that age.

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