Spelling the Dream Parent Guide
A surprising story of one segment of the immigrant experience.
Parent Movie Review
The Scripps National Spelling Bee is the Junior Olympics of spelling; a chance for the best spellers in the USA to compete for the coveted trophy. Over the past three decades, a new trend has emerged: 26 of the past 31 winners have been Indian Americans.Figuring out how members of such a small minority group, which makes up less than 1% of the population, manage to dominate spelling bees, is the purpose of Spelling the Dream.
The documentary quickly eliminates theories of innate racial or ethnic ability, focusing instead on the way the immigration system self-selects driven, highly educated new Americans. And director Sam Rega has chosen to devote some of the movie’s runtime to interviews with South Asian American luminaries like Fareed Zakaria or Sanjay Gupta for commentary on the Indian American cultural experience. The most interesting parts of the movie follow the competitors as they explain their passion for spelling. We meet a precocious seven year old who began spelling at age two. Teenager Shourav Dasari wears his lucky Nike hoodie in competitions and has a database of over 100,000 words that he uses to study before spelling bees. And Tejas Muthusamy carries his lucky purple rock to every contest. These interviews pull us into the kids’ lives and make us care about their success. I found watching the spelling bees just as edge-of-my-seat tense as a sports event – but I am a word nerd who spent part of my childhood reading dictionaries for fun. Your experience might differ.
Spelling the Dream is a completely harmless film to watch, with no negative content, not even a swear word. This doesn’t mean it’s perfect family entertainment. Most young children (and plenty of older ones) will find it boring. Kids who love to spell, on the other hand, and youngsters who know what it’s like to struggle to achieve a long-term goal, will enjoy watching their contemporaries shine in their chosen field of expertise. As for adults, this is one of those films that makes us feel like we’re standing in the dust behind high-achieving juniors. I am a writer and editor with a university degree – and there were plenty of words I couldn’t spell or even define in this film. It certainly serves up a massive slice of humble pie for most viewers.
Overall, Spelling the Dream is an interesting look at how immigrants assimilate into American culture and how an ethnic group can enthusiastically adopt local traditions as their own. For a nation built on the concept of a melting pot, that’s spells “s-u-c-c-e-s-s”.Directed by Sam Rega. Starring Srinivas Ayyagari, Jacques Bailly, and Valerie Browning. Running time: 88 minutes. Theatrical release June 3, 2020. Updated August 31, 2020
Watch the trailer for Spelling the Dream
Spelling the Dream
Rating & Content Info
Why is Spelling the Dream rated TV-G? Spelling the Dream is rated TV-G by the MPAA
Violence: None noted.
Sexual Content: None noted.
Profanity: None noted.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated August 31, 2020
Spelling the Dream Parents' Guide
How hard do the kids study to prepare for the Scripps Spelling Bee? Is there anything you’ve ever wanted to do badly enough to work that hard?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Ever wondered about the real life spelling bee champions? Anthropologist Shalini Shankar did and her research has resulted in Beeline: What Spelling Bees Reveal About Generation Z’s New Path to Success.
For an inside look at the competitions, you can read James Maguire’s American Bee: The National Spelling Bee and the Culture of Word Nerds; The Lives of Five Top Spellers as They Compete for Glory and Fame.
If spelling drives you crazy and you want to master the skill, try How to Spell Like a Champ. Written by Barrie Trinkle, Paige Kimble, and Carolyn Andrews, this book gives you basic rules, exceptions, and the most commonly mis-spelled types of words
The most recent home video release of Spelling the Dream movie is June 3, 2020. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
Akeelah and the Bee tells the story of an African American student from an underprivileged neighborhood who has a talent for spelling. With encouragement from her teacher, she starts competing in spelling bees. In Bee Season, a father becomes obsessed with helping his daughter spell competitively.