AFI Movie Club: BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM – American Film Institute

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AFI Movie Club: BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM

BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM is an inspiring story of Jess Bhamra, a young British Indian athlete whose love of soccer conflicts with her traditional upbringing. Director Gurinder Chadha – the first British Asian woman to direct a major feature film – has also been a Harold Lloyd Master Seminar speaker at the AFI Conservatory.

 

In this exclusive AFI Archive video, director Gurinder Chadha talks about her directing process:

 

Movie Trivia about BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM

DID YOU KNOW?

Although the film is named after legend David Beckham, director Gurinder Chadha was initially inspired by Ian Wright – a Black soccer player wearing the Union Jack flag at the Euro 96 championship.

DID YOU KNOW?

The title was almost changed to “Move It Like Mia” in the U.S. as a reference to Mia Hamm. Fox Searchlight executives were afraid American audiences wouldn’t be familiar with British soccer star David Beckham or know what “bend” it meant. However, Chadha objected to the change and the original title remained.

DID YOU KNOW?

Actresses Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley did all of their own soccer playing without using doubles. Director Gurinder Chadha said, “I put them into three months solid football training, and they had a coach and every day they would come in and train.”

DID YOU KNOW?

Most of the Hounslow Harriers were professional soccer players in real life. Aside from Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley – who were hired for their acting ability – all the other women on the team played for various London clubs except Shaznay Lewis, a singer who had played for Arsenal Ladies as a teenager.

DID YOU KNOW?

BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM was Keira Knightley’s breakthrough role. The following year she went on to star in both LOVE ACTUALLY and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.

DID YOU KNOW?

BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM director Gurinder Chadha became the first British Asian woman to ever direct a feature film when she made BHAJI ON THE BEACH in 1993.

DID YOU KNOW?

The character of Jess Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) wears jersey #7 in BEND IT LIKE BECKAM, which is the same number her idol David Beckham wore when he played for Manchester United. Meanwhile, Jules (Keira Knightley) wears #9 for the Hounslow Harriers, the same number as Mia Hamm.

DID YOU KNOW?

The title BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM refers to more than just “bending” a soccer ball. Director Gurinder Chadha also saw it as a metaphor for female empowerment, saying, “My film is about bending the rules to get what you want instead of breaking the rules.”

DID YOU KNOW?

The scar on Jess’ leg is real, as is the story behind it. As an eight-year-old, Parminder Naga had an accident making beans on toast that Gurinder Chadha wrote into the script after offering Nagra the role.

DID YOU KNOW?

The film was a tribute to Gurinder Chadha’s father who passed away suddenly before filming. Chadha sees the story as an homage to his generation, “who came here…and struggled so that their kids could have the opportunities we did.”

DID YOU KNOW?

BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM was released a year after 9/11. Director Gurinder Chadha said, “In America, I started getting letters from Sikhs saying, ‘Thank God for your film because you are showing people who we are and how different and united we all are.’”

DID YOU KNOW?

BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM became an unlikely hit when it grossed more than $76 million worldwide on a $6 million budget.

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.

The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-What does David Beckham symbolize to Jess Bhamra? How does her family home with its religious iconography contrast with her bedroom?

-How does the film depict traditional Indian culture? How does Jess defy her family and her native culture?

-What brings Jess and Jules together, despite their different cultural backgrounds?

-How does Jess challenge common ideas and beliefs about women and their roles in society?

-How are soccer and sports in general empowering for girls and young women, and why is it important to see the depiction of female athletes onscreen?

-Seven weeks after the film’s release, the Women’s United Soccer Association, which both characters in the film are hoping to be recruited for, actually folded in the U.S. Why is it harder for women’s sports to receive the same support and funding given to men’s sports?

-What is Title IX? Is it being upheld in terms of women’s sports in the U.S.?

-How do Jules’ British parents compare/contrast with Jess’ Indian parents?

-How did Jess’ father experience as a burgeoning cricket player and an immigrant influence the lessons he passes down to his daughter?

-What did you think of the relationship between Jess and her coach Joe? How do they bond by both being outsiders in the U.K.?

-How does Jess balance trying to make her parents proud and achieving her own goals? How does her relationship with her parents evolve in the film? Why do you think her father tells her to leave her own sister’s wedding to play in the soccer match at the end?

-BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM came out a year after 9/11. How does the film promote cultural understanding?

-How has women’s soccer grown in the U.S. and worldwide since the film’s release?

-How would you rate BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM?

New to AFI Movie Club? Want to learn more?

AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.

Learn more in our FAQ section.

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