New York City
March 2003

Soccer Saga: Bend It Like Beckham
Holocaust Harbor: Nowhere In Africa

By Jan Aaron

In the charming comedy, Bend It Like Beckam, an Indian girl meets a blonde tomboy who helps her realize her dream of playing big time soccer. As in her previous films, Bhaji on the Beach and What’s Cooking, director writer Gurinder Chadha doesn’t delve deep here, but assembles a first rate cast to tell this story about changing social conventions. The artful Indo-West song/music soundtrack also energizes the movie. (Opens March 15).

Jess (terrific newcomer Parminder Nagra) is the younger daughter in a traditional Indian family living outside of London. Her father (Bollywood star Anupam Kher, making his Western debut) is firm; her mother (Shaheen Khan) is always after her to learn to cook a full Punjabi meal, and her sassy fashion obsessed sister, Pinky (Archie Panjabi) is preparing to marry her longtime beau. Jess, however, has eyes only for David Beckham, star of the Manchester Soccer Team. His pictures paper her room. When not studying for law school admission exams, Jess spends her time kicking the ball around with some guys in the park. Recruited by Jules (Keira Knightley) who plays for a woman’s soccer team, she tries out and makes the team—and starts leading a double life secret from her parents.

A theme is secret lives: The girls’ team coach, Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), is not only Irish (an outsider like Jess), but has an injured knee that kept him from realizing his soccer playing dream. Jess’ best male friend is gay (in the closet). There’s even a suspicion that Jess and Jules are lesbian lovers. Everything is amusingly worked out. Best moments cut between a key soccer match and Pinky’s amazing wedding. (112 minutes, R; Released by Fox Searchlight)

Not to be missed (opening March 7) is Nowhere in Africa, based on an autobiographical novel by Stefanie Zweig. It tells the little-known true story of Jews who, seeking to escape Nazi persecution, lived and farmed in Kenya, focusing on a little girl who grew up there. Richly detailed and moving. (140 minutes; R; Zeitgeist Films.)#

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