A young girl escapes the killing fields of Cambodia, immigrates to America, and four years later becomes the U.S. national spelling bee champion…in The Girl Who Spelled Freedom. Based on a true story. [Dir: Simon Wincer/ Wayne Rogers, Mary Kay Place, Jade Chinn/ 90 min/ Family, Drama, Biography/ Pro-Immigration, Voluntaryism, Escape from Socialism, Democide]
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This is a nice, upbeat Disney tale of hard-working immigrants and the people who help them.
It tells the remarkable story of Linn Yann, who escaped with her family from the killing fields of Cambodia in 1979. In the opening scene we see the Yanns struggling to traverse miles of Cambodian jungle under heavy gunfire. When they finally reach Thailand, exhausted and hungry, the Thai government says it won’t allow them to stay. If they can’t immediately find sponsors abroad to help them emigrate, they will be sent back to Cambodia, where they will very likely be executed for leaving.
Enter a kind middle-class family from Tennessee. After hearing from their church about the plight of Cambodian refugees, the Tennessee family sponsors the Yanns, and opens their house to them. There are many problems along the way, but the Yanns gradually blend into American life, and the industrious Linn Yann throws all her energy into learning the English language. Amazingly, just four years later, she becomes the U.S. national spelling bee champion.
This is one of those marvels of educational achievement for which Asian immigrants, in particular, are renowned. Granted, spelling isn’t rocket science, but the point is the same: immigrants work a lot harder than most of us.
From a libertarian perspective, this film has much going for it. It portrays totalitarian socialism for what it is, dramatically supports our immigrant tradition, and puts private philanthropy in a favorable light. On the downside, a bit too much focus is placed on the rather mild difficulties encountered by the American sponsors, who, despite their obvious generosity, seem a bit whiny at times. Nonetheless, this film is an agreeable watch and is especially well suited to introducing younger viewers to the concept of free movement of people.
How to See The Girl Who Spelled Freedom
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“The vivacious 15-year-old resident of Chattanooga, Tenn. can’t contain her excitement. This week’s ABC Disney Sunday Movie will tell the story of her life. She’s eager for chums to tune in, but like any teen TV addict she’s got bigger dreams.”
–“A Cambodian Teen Triumphs as a Chattanooga Word Wiz,” People Magazine