‘Spelling the Dream’ lifts the lid on Indian-American success in US spelling bees

The documentary is directed by Sam Rega. (Supplied)
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Updated 25 June 2020

‘Spelling the Dream’ lifts the lid on Indian-American success in US spelling bees

  • Netflix doc only scratches surface of reasons behind dominance of cultural institution

LONDON: There’s an infectious enthusiasm about the four kids who star in “Spelling the Dream” — director Sam Rega’s Netflix documentary exploring the dominance of Indian-American contestants in US spelling bees. These children, gifted as they are, appear to simply love being part of the inimitable North American spelling bee culture: they thrive on the pressure of the performance and find the kind of stoic dignity in defeat that would put many adults to shame.




The documentary explores the dominance of Indian-American contestants in US spelling bees. (Supplied)

And it’s this unbridled joy for the rigorous, grueling competition that makes “Spelling the Dream” so engaging to watch — despite the fact that it rarely ventures deep into the societal and cultural context that has seen Indian-American kids play such a fundamental role in spelling bee history. Indeed, comedian Hari Kondabolu, who appears as a talking head in the film, likens these competitions to an Indian-American Super Bowl.




“Spelling the Dream” is on Netflix. (Supplied)

At times, it seems like Rega is about to delve further into that bigger picture. He traces generational paths of migrating families from the Indian subcontinent and their singular desire for their descendants to achieve intellectual greatness. He also touches on the (particularly pertinent) depressingly predictable racist responses from a minority of Americans to the dominance of Indian-American kids in what many US citizens consider to be a national institution. But Rega consistently pulls back just when things start to get heavy.

It’s a totally understandable move, particularly given that simply following the four stars yields such heartwarming footage — of their love for spelling and of the support proffered by their families. But the end result is a film that gives an enthralling glimpse into the culture of spelling bees, but that ends up feeling life affirming rather than revelatory.


Bella Hadid lands Michael Kors fashion campaign

Updated 23 September 2020

Bella Hadid lands Michael Kors fashion campaign

DUBAI: The fashion campaigns just keep rolling in for Bella Hadid. The part-Palestinian model was selected to star in the new Michael Kors fall 2020 ad campaign, which was shot by Swedish photographer Mikael Jansson. 

Appearing alongside models Luke Maehlmann and Kendall Harrison, the half-Dutch catwalker looks the part of a rock star on tour wearing bohemian designs, oversized felt hats, patchwork prints, yellow-tinted aviator sunglasses and leather handbags.

“The campaign channels the ultimate in rock star glamour,” said Michael Kors in a release. “The laid-back cool, the attitude and the star power.”

For Hadid, who has been an ambassador for Michael Kors since 2018 and featured in the brand’s spring 2019, holiday 2019 and spring 2020 ready-to-wear campaigns, working with the American house is familiar territory.

The 23-year-old has long been a muse for the American label and has also walked for the brand during New York Fashion Week.

The designer announced in June that he has opted out of New York Fashion Week’s fall edition this year in favor of a presentation in either October or November. Whether or not the new campaign can be taken as a barometer of the label’s forthcoming spring 2021 collection, something tells us that house favorite, Bella, could be involved. 

Indeed, the younger sister of Gigi Hadid hasn’t let the global health pandemic slow her down. In fact, she’s been as busy as ever, in spite of the restrictions brought about by the coronavirus.

In addition to her latest work with Michael Kors, the California-bred model also recently appeared in a beauty campaign for Dior as well as British heritage house Burberry’s Pocket Bag campaign.

Hadid also featured in an ad for fine jewelry label Bulgari, shot by Brooklyn-based photographer Tyler Mitchell.

And fashion lovers may recall that back in June, Hadid and Hailey Baldwin Bieber were spotted tanning on a yacht in Sardinia during lockdown.

As it turns out Bieber and Hadid, who were recently revealed as the faces of Versace’s Dylan Turquoise and Dylan Blue women’s fragrances, respectively, were shooting new-season campaigns for the Italian house. 

The part-Arab catwalker was also the star of Calvin Klein’s spring 2020 campaign for its CK Swim range, alongside Italian-Moroccan model Malika El-Maslouhi.