A small, unshowy documentary about a US national spelling contest might not sound like the makings of a champ. But put aside any prejudices and Spellbound will make you grateful you signed on the dotted line.
Tracking the efforts of eight talented youngsters from a variety of backgrounds, the film sidesteps the usual Q&A awkwardness by letting the conversation flow naturally and the kids/parents/friends speak for themselves. It's also a credit to director Jeff Blitz that his doc's never dull - - a keen sense of storytelling and dramatic tension holds your attention, even if, from time to time, the actual spelling contests themselves become visually repetitive.
Not that it matters - - by this time, you're truly invested in the fate of the kids. Likewise, any complaints that some of the interviewees are stereotypes are deflected by the fact that there's no sign of mean-spiritedness here.
This sort of quality docu-making always exists on the margins, unfairly relegated to limited release. Seek it out and you'll be soundly rewarded. Spelt R-E-W...