Australian Council on Children and the Media

Spellbound

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Short takes

Under 8s may be bored

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Spellbound
  • a review of Spellbound completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 9 November 2003.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Children under 8 my be bored by this film
Children over the age of 8 Children over 8 should be fine to watch this film

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Spellbound
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: None
Length 97 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee is an annual event which has been held in America since 1925. Spellbound documents the background of eight of the participants in the 1999 event and their progress to the national event. In doing so it provides a snapshot of the diversity of culture in present day America.

  • Angela is the daughter of Mexican illegal immigrants who fled to Texas 25 years ago and who still don’t speak any English. They came to America to give their children a better chance at life and are very proud of Angela when she wins the regional competition.
  • Nupur is from an Indian family in Florida who beats her three rival male competitors to win the regional event.
  • Ted comes from a farming family in Missouri and is considered a little different by his school peers. His family live in a caravan and he enjoys archery and shooting.
  • Emily comes from the most affluent family in the group. She lives in Connecticut and likes horse riding and singing. She says she doesn’t particularly like spelling but is very competitive.
  • Ashley is an African American being brought up by her mother in Washington. She comes from a disadvantaged area where there are signs prohibiting drugs and firearms. Police cars patrol the school ground.
  • Neil is another Indian boy from California whose father Rayesh is driven to make his son succeed. Neil has a coach who works with him for eight hours at a time as well as tutors who drill him in French, Spanish and German words. Rayesh insists that Neil should meditate and play sport to keep him well balanced.
  • April comes from a Pennsylvanian family who love playing word games. Her mother devotes all her time to her and April puts her life on hold while preparing for the Bee.
  • The final character is Harry, a lively boy from New Jersey who loves to crack jokes and ‘speak robot’.
  • The final competition takes place over two days where 249 children are put through their paces spelling very difficult words. The tension and excitement of the children are most evident.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is no violence in this movie.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

There is nothing scary in this movie.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

There is nothing scary in this movie.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

There is nothing scary in this movie.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

There is nothing scary in this movie.

Sexual references

There are no sexual references.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is no nudity or sexual activity.

Use of substances

There is no use of substances.

Coarse language

There is no coarse language.

In a nutshell

There is not really one take home message in this movie but there are several comments made by different people that are worth taking note of including:

  • Nupur says that there are no second chances in India like there are in America.
  • Rayesh says if you work hard in America you can make it – that doesn’t exist in most other places in the world.
  • When Angela gets out she says she already feels like a champion because she made it to the National Bee. Angela thinks it’s because of her background that she’s worked so hard.
  • Ashley: if she loses she’ll be upset for a little while but then she’ll rise above it – it’s just another obstacle to overcome.

Values that parents may wish to encourage include:

  • determination
  • self sacrifice
  • self motivation
  • disadvantaged background is no impediment
  • ambition
  • cultural harmony
  • acceptance of not winning.

Values that parents may wish to discourage include:

  • intolerance
  • obsessive behaviour.

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