Bent It Like Beckham

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Bend It Like Beckham
Dir. Gurinder Chadha, UK/Germany 2002, Certificate 12A

Introduction
Bend It Like Beckham was one of the surprise hits of 2002, making over £11,000,000 at the UK Box Office and hitting a chord with a range of audiences at cinemas. A vibrant and colourful British comedy about a young girl from a Sikh family who desperately wants to play football against the wishes of her traditional parents, the film can be seen to follow the path of other recent British-Asian films such as Bhaji on the Beach, Anita and Me and East Is East in its examination of culture clashes and family traditions. Bend It Like Beckham takes these themes and adds extra ingredients to the dish – football, Shakespearean confusions over identity and sexuality, in-jokes about both British pop culture and the Sikh way of life, and a music soundtrack mixing a range of East/West sounds and musical styles. It is also useful to look at Bend It Like Beckham within a wider context of the British Asian experience in popular culture and media, such as portrayal of Asian culture on television including Ali G, Goodness Gracious Me, families in soaps such as Coronation Street and EastEnders – even the new Walkers Crisps advert has Gary Lineker in a mini-Bollywood musical - and the Asian language, music and fashion that has now flowed into the mainstream.

© Film Education 2003

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Film Synopsis
Jesminder (known as Jess) is a Sikh teenager living in Hounslow, who loves to play football. Her parents disapprove, wanting her to settle down, get a job as a lawyer and marry a nice Indian boy. Meeting up with another teenage girl, Jules, while having a kick around in the park, Jess discovers there is a local girl’s football team and also that there is a chance she could play professionally. She joins the team (lying to the coach, Joe, that she has told her parents) and becomes best friends with Jules; whilst the team get a chance to go to Hamburg to play. In Germany, Jess and Jules have a falling out over Joe, and Jess’ subterfuge is discovered by her parents and she is banned from playing. A crucial cup match is planned (where an American scout will be present) on the same day as Jess’ sister’s wedding. Will Jess and Jules make up? Can Jess get to the match and the wedding?

Curriculum Links
The film is a very useful tool for work on a range of topics within Film and Media Studies, particularly for exploring representation and studying contemporary British cinema. It is available on both VHS and DVD and is still in UK distribution. Certificate 12A Suitable for: GCSE, A Level [NOTE: PE teachers may also find it useful to explain the off-side rule!]

© Film Education 2003

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Representation
The film explores a number of themes and gives us two main areas of study in terms of representation: gender and the British Asian experience. These two areas can be brought together by looking at the main protagonists, Jess and Jules, their respective families and the issues explored. Jess is the central character and in the main, we follow the story through her experiences. She is shown as an intelligent young woman, who tries to be a ‘good’ girl for her mother and father, but who is also passionate about playing football. Jess has already started to move away from traditional ways (her name is westernised from Jesminder) whilst her family think that football will have a corrupting influence - ‘showing your bare legs to the boys’ says her mother. However, her rebellious streak is not aimed to hurt her parents. Our first sight of Jess is actually in a fantasy sequence, playing for Manchester United and scoring the winning goal, and then we see her in her room, surrounded by icons traditionally linked to boys (football scarves, posters, wearing a Manchester United top). Jess is seemingly not bothered by her appearance and is not interested in ‘typical’ teenage girl activities (shopping, boys, make-up, clothes, pop music etc.). When her mother finally...
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