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Movie Madness
buzzed, B&W
hairylunch
I've been home since Saturday, and been on a bit of a movie kick. I watched Radio, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Spellbound. Of the three, I think my fav was Spellbound. It's just a really cool documentary about the Scripps Howard spelling bee. It follows a diverse group of 8 kids: you have your success/achievement driven Indians, a girl who's Mexican cattle working father doesn't even speak English, 12 year old eighth graders, overachievers who don't quite fit in with their peer groups, and the black girl from Chicago. The DVD also features three more students in bonus footage - the one that really sticks out in my mind is the 10 year old who is returning to Nationals for the second time. I'm still amazed by the diversity of the kids, both racially and socio-economically. The Mexican family is cattle workers, the Chicagoan lives in a little apartment, and when they interview her mother, you can tell she's trying to appear educated, using bigger words that are pushing her vocabulary, but still saying things like they're not giving my daughter "props" and they're "not recognizing" - at the other end we have Neil, who's sister placed fifth in the spelling bee, who lives in Orange County, in a huge house/mansion of granite and marble, and the ten year old girl with the M.D. mother and father who has a home office that has a computer and a microscope, and girls with au pairs.

The prep these kids go through is incredible. The Indian living in OC has a spelling coach, and various tutors in Spanish, French, and other languages to help him with etymology. Another one of the girls says she spend 8-9 hours a day in the summer, and 5-6 hours a day during the school year, and every break she had (whether it be in class, during her softball games, whatever) she would have the flash cards out. Her parents were concerned because they thought it was wrong she didn't even want to go to the mall. Along with her parents having the stereotype, there was another teacher who was saying in regards to Nupur, the Indian female, that she loved having Indian students because they had such good work ethics, that they would really learn something. The ranchers who owned the ranch that the Mexican worked on were old, a couple probably in their 80s. The man went so far as to say that not all Mexicans are lazy, that there are good ones (Angela's father had been working there close to 20 years).

When there were kids talking about spelling 7000-8000 words a day, I was reminded of a guy I knew who had memorized the little book that Scripps Howard gives you to prep for the regional/city bee. I remember how I thought that was silly, but watching these kids made me realize that was nothing.

There's a nice "Where are they now" feature on the DVD too, and you realize that these kids have something special. It makes me wonder if they are smart, dedicated, or a nice mixture of the two. Some of the have gone on to excel at math and science contests, others have set jet ski records, won over 25k on Jeopardy, etc.

The movie touches numerous issues, such as minorities gaining acceptance in the US and the stereotypical hard-work leading to success in America ideal that both Indian families and the Mexican family share. It doesn't directly address the issue of parents and the pressure placed on these children to succeed, but it's always there, just under the surface.

Oh, and since my brother was floating the idea of attending South by Southwest, I thought it was interesting that the movie won Best Documentary there.

Edit: Actually, the black girl was from DC, not Chicago not that I think about it.

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