“Since 1999, 19 of the last 23 winners of the Scripps National Spelling Bee have been Indian-American, and an Indian-American has won for 11 straight years making the incredible trend one of the longest in sports history. “Breaking the Bee” is a feature-length documentary that explores and celebrates this new dynasty while following four students, ages 7 to 14, as they vie for the title of spelling bee champion.
When the confetti rains down, after the final letter has been put in place, who will be there standing in the spotlight — and will the legacy continue for one more year?”
That’s from the official film website, and while it’s accurate, it’s also wildly incomplete. This documentary provides not only useful and informative context about this dynasty, but also functions as a fascinating socio-cultural examination of a robust subculture while existing as a fucking great sports movie, as well.
Seriously, this thing is propulsive and filled with delightfully unbearable tension as these precocious kids stand in front of national television cameras and spell the hardest words the English language has to offer. As a former spelling bee participant myself (I flamed out on the written test in regionals in 8th grade), when this was announced for #DFF41, I jumped at the chance to talk with the filmmakers.
And the conversation touches on so many different aspects of this film ranging from why spelling bees still matter in this age of autocorrect, how the Scripps National Bee actually works, the value of dedicating oneself to a skill like this early in life, and why the Bee is like WrestleMania (seriously). You’re going to love this chat.
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