One particular group of Americans has been dominating the Scripps National Spelling Bee, comprising 18 of the last 22 national winners, winning every year since 2008, and co-championing (due to a tie) for three years in a row. Documentary film Breaking the Bee, premiering this weekend at the Cleveland International Film Festival, explores the trend of Indian-American winners, “one of the longest in sports history.”
Have a look at the trailer:
Sam Rega and Chris Weller are the filmmakers of Breaking the Bee, which follows the competitive journey of four young spellers and shares expert commentary by an intriguing array of individuals from news, entertainment, academic, and spelling bee backgrounds. Rega shared in an interview that the film also explores the xenophobic and racist blowback to the string of desi winners, and the notion that “tiger parents” are pushing their kids to win.
CNN host Fareed Zakaria is one of the film’s interviewees, and in the trailer he offers thoughts on the desi spelling dynasty, saying, “Success seemed attainable, it seemed achievable, because you had watched other Indian-Americans do it.”
Some of the other interviewees in the film include spelling bee officials, comedian Hari Kondabolu, 1999 champion Nupur Lala, and anthropologist Shalini Shankar, who has been researching spelling bees, spellers, and their families since 2013.
Breaking the Bee had its world premiere on April 6 at the Cleveland International Film Festival and screens there again today. The film will also screen at the New York Indian Film Festival on May 12.