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Since 1999, 19 of the last 23 winners of the Scripps National Spelling Bee have been Indian-American, and an Indian-American has won for 11 straight years making the incredible trend one of the longest in sports history. “Breaking the Bee” is a feature-length documentary that explores and celebrates this new dynasty while following four students, ages 7 to 14, as they vie for the title of spelling bee champion. 

When the confetti rains down, after the final letter has been put in place, who will be there standing in the spotlight — and will the legacy continue for one more year?

 
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The Spellers

Akash, 7

Akash was the second-youngest participant ever to reach the Scripps National Spelling Bee as a 6-year-old in 2016. He is already a Mensa member and has been competing in spelling bees since he was 2. He was featured on the hit NBC show “Little Big Shots” hosted by Steve Harvey.

 
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Ashrita, 10

Ashrita improved from 7th to 3rd to 2nd place in her regional spelling bee over the last three years. In 2017, she hopes to finally win and advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. 

 

Shourav, 14

Shourav hopes to return to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2017, having first qualified in 2016. He’s won both the North South Foundation Spelling Bee and the South Asian Spelling Bee, two Indian-only spelling bees. This is his final year of eligibility.

 

Tejas, 14

Tejas enters his final year of eligibility as an 8th grader. He’s a favorite to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, having reached the finals the last three years. He's been spelling since 1st grade. 

 

The Interviews

  Dr. Sanjay Gupta    CNN Chief Medical Correspondent & Neurosurgeon

Dr. Sanjay Gupta

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent & Neurosurgeon

  Fareed Zakaria   CNN Host, Author, & Washington Post Columnist

Fareed Zakaria

CNN Host, Author, & Washington Post Columnist

  Kevin Negandhi   ESPN SportsCenter Anchor & Scripps National Spelling Bee Host

Kevin Negandhi

ESPN SportsCenter Anchor & Scripps National Spelling Bee Host

  Hari Kondabolu   Comedian

Hari Kondabolu

Comedian

  Nupur Lala   1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee Winner

Nupur Lala

1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee Winner

  Balu Natarajan   1985 Scripps National Spelling Bee Winner

Balu Natarajan

1985 Scripps National Spelling Bee Winner

  Shalini Shankar   Anthropologist at Northwestern University

Shalini Shankar

Anthropologist at Northwestern University

  Pawan Dhingra   Sociologist at Tufts University

Pawan Dhingra

Sociologist at Tufts University

  Ratnam Chitturi   Founder of the North South Foundation

Ratnam Chitturi

Founder of the North South Foundation

  Jacques Bailly   Pronouncer & 1980 Champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee

Jacques Bailly

Pronouncer & 1980 Champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee

  Srinivas Ayyagari   3rd Place at the '92 & '94 Scripps National Spelling Bee

Srinivas Ayyagari

3rd Place at the '92 & '94 Scripps National Spelling Bee

  Rahul Walia   Founder of the South Asian Spelling Bee

Rahul Walia

Founder of the South Asian Spelling Bee

  Valerie Browning   Co-Founder of Hexco Academic

Valerie Browning

Co-Founder of Hexco Academic

  Paige Kimble   Executive Director & 1981 Champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee

Paige Kimble

Executive Director & 1981 Champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee

The Filmmakers

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Sam Rega, Director, Producer, Editor

Sam Rega is a filmmaker based in New York City. "Breaking the Bee" marks his third feature documentary. He directed the esports doc, "League of Millions," and the South Florida crime doc, "Miami Noir: The Arthur E. Teele Story." He edited feature documentaries for several years with rakontur, the studio behind the "Cocaine Cowboys" doc series. Sam's work has been featured on Netflix, VH1, ESPN, Amazon, iTunes, The New York Times, and Business Insider. He is a graduate of the University of Miami and a Knight Arts Challenge recipient. (View filmography)

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Chris Weller, Producer

Chris Weller is a writer based in New York City. He has written for Business Insider, Newsweek, and The Atlantic, and has also appeared on NPR. “Breaking the Bee” marks Chris’ filmmaking debut. Chris has followed and covered the spelling bee extensively over the past several years, including writing a profile of Akash Vukoti and an analysis of the trend of Indian-American winners. Currently, he works as Senior Science Editor at the NeuroLeadership Institute.