Bend it Like Beckham (Kick it Like Beckham)

With actors Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley
available on DVD in the US

Set in West London, Hamburg and Hounslow, this comedy addresses multicultural issues in relation to women’s soccer, friendship, family and social norms. Jesminder (Jess) Bhamra (Parminder Nagra), the daughter of Indian parents that immigrated to the UK, loves to play soccer. Her parents, however, do not want her to play soccer because Jess’ father’s dreams were destroyed when he was kicked off the English cricket team due to his race. Nonetheless, she continues to play secretly. One day, Juliette (Keira Knightley), the daughter of two very typical English parents, sees Jess playing soccer and invites her to try out for her team, the Hounslow Harriers. Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyer), the coach, is skeptical at first. But he soon realizes how good Jess plays, and therefore allows her to join the team. But what will happen when Jess’ parents find out that she is playing soccer, and even worse, that a soccer match is scheduled for the same day that her sister, Pinky, is getting married? Will she have to go home to learn how to cook a true Indian dinner, or will she stay on the soccer field?

Different types of film shots and techniques bring out the contrasting scenes of the film. For example, cultural differences are depicted especially well through the multiple scene changes between the Indian family and the typical English family and soccer field. In addition, various types of film shots enforce the flow of the movie. For example, on the soccer field, close-ups of players’ feet are used in conjunction with wide shots depicting the whole team. Mid shots and medium close-ups allow the viewer to focus on one character, while nonetheless taking in the full scene of the movie. This allows for a very dynamic, multi-sided insight into the lives of the characters.

The movie’s title refers to David Beckham, who is known for “bending” the soccer ball past the defense and into the goal. As a woman and child of Indian immigrant parents, Jess “bends social norms”. She tries again and again to bend the societal and religious norms. Not only does she not wear a salwar khameez and instead runs around in shorts, but she also doesn’t comply with the rules that women aren’t supposed to play sports.

Bend it like Beckham exemplifies this change, this bending of “social norms” in modern-day England. It shows the changing nature of England, which like Germany is becoming more populated with immigrants. However, instead of remaining in the confrontational state of immigrants vs. citizens, certain social constraints, which also developed in Germany around the early 1970s, are being torn down. But as opposed to taking a serious approach to a very serious topic, Bend it like Beckham depicts the multicultural scene of social clashes, gender restraints and religion in a humorous, entertaining, light-spirited, energetic way.

by Sarah Hesse

Links: IMDB, Film Portal
Genre(s): Comedy;
Keywords: Soccer, Indian diaspora in the UK, Americanization, intercultural friendship

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