Beginning in late 2015, filmmaker Sam Rega and his team began researching, attending regional spelling bees, and meeting participants’ families. They first met speller Akash Vukoti who has made a name for himself with his outsized talent. In fact, Vukoti has been competing at local-level bees since he was two. There were other, older spellers, too, who were national-level favourites.

After producing a trailer and raising funds on Kickstarter, the team began the main production in early 2017.

“We spent a lot of time and really got to know these families,” Rega told Quartz. “So much of it was driven by the child: the child became the athlete, the parents were the coach, and the siblings were the assistant coach.”

The spellers are dedicated to the game. Between their music classes, playtime, and even meditation, they spend a couple of hours every day strategically learning spellings and definitions. The documentary shows them participating in extremely competitive regional-level spelling bees, including those run by the south Asian community itself, in rounds as engaging and nerve-wracking as the finals of extreme sports.

The film shows that despite its spelling success evoking some racist reactions on social media, the small community is only getting better at the game every year. In the 2017 Scripps bee, 25% of the 291 contenders were Indian-American, and they made up 13 out of the 15 finalists. The winner that year was an Indian-American sixth-grader named Ananya who spelled the word “marocain.”

“I couldn’t be happier with the timing of this [documentary],” Rega said. “I hope that this also opens the eyes of people, [showing] that this is a story about Americans; this is a story about them succeeding at an American event, doing it by the rules just like everyone else.”

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