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Sunday, July 05, 2020

Spelling the Dream review: Decoding Indian magic

Spelling the Dream will undoubtedly serve as a morale-booster for the Indian-American community but for others, it will be an inspirational story of hard-working students who know that winning comes only after rigorous training.

Written by Sampada Sharma | New Delhi | Updated: June 4, 2020 8:23:51 am
spelling the dream review Spelling the Dream is streaming on Netflix.

There’s no way that you will not be impressed by the kids featured in Netflix’s latest documentary Spelling the Dream. Here, we see how the Indian Americans have dominated the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition for decades now, and their hold on the title is just getting stronger every year. Director Sam Rega offers a short history lesson on Indian immigrants in America and then focuses on the families who devote the children’s formative years to competing in spelling bees.

The statistics here say it all. Indian Americans have won the national competition for 12 years in a row. In fact, 27 of the last 35 winners were Indian Americans. The 2019 competition, which had eight winners (first time in history), had seven of its winners from the Indian-American community.

So what is it about Indian Americans that they have dominated this space? Sam Rega tries to answer that question, which remains unanswered until the end.

We meet those who won the competition as young kids in the 1980s and 90s as they explain how the arena has changed for Indian Americans. Comedian Hari Kondabolu and journalist Fareed Zakaria also weigh in.

As a story, this is quite impressive. Parents who immigrated to the land of dreams are now helping their children be the best version of themselves. But what makes Indian Americans excel at spelling bees? The closest this documentary comes to answering that question is saying that these kids are usually multi-lingual. But honestly, I don’t think that it’s only Indian kids who know multiple languages, so there has to be something more here.

Spelling the Dream will undoubtedly serve as a morale-booster for the Indian-American community but for the others, it will be an inspirational story of hard-working students who know that winning comes only after rigorous training.

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