Akeelah and the Bee (2006)

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Singapore’s Big Spell will be starting soon and tonight it just hit me to share with my wife one of the best sport genre movies ever – Akeelah and the Bee. Well… it’s not exactly a sport but it has everything a sport genre film has – an insolent student, a wise teacher, a cool “wax on wax off” training sequence and a suspenseful life-affirming final.

We enjoyed it a lot. It may not have been very polished but it delivered tonnes of heart. Seeing it again I realize there’s a scene in the final which I have never seen before in any other films. That scene involved the word “xanthosis” and it has such heartfelt emotional heft and it showed a part of Akeelah I suspected but had never known. Laurence Fishburne’s Dr Larabee may have taught her spelling and inculcated in her a love for words but in the process she has learned a greater lesson, humility.  This scene makes perfect sense because writer-director Doug Atchison builds it up throughout the film and when Akeelah executes that move, only two persons will know what it is about. Brilliant!

The movie may have the narrative structure of a sport genre film but what makes it transcends to another level is the tender portrayal of relationship between Akeelah and her teacher and also her two male pals who made it to the final and Akeelah’s family.

This film like the seminal 3 Idiots teaches you that the process in learning is more important than winning the prize at the end, and it also advocates that how you win is more important than winning.

I leave you with some powerful words from the movie. They are from Marianne Williamson but a lot of people mistakenly attributed them to Nelson Mandela.  These are words I sometimes get my kids to ponder over.  I cannot say every kid will bother with it but there are always a few in my class who are moved by the words. Sometimes, that is all that matters.

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