Bend it like Beckham (2002)The film Bend it like Beckham is a British-Asian production. It was produced in Great Britain in 2002, directed by the Indian Gurinder Chadha and was first recommended for foreign language teaching purposes two years later:
It is a well-known fact that Bredella has often pleaded for the application of so-called reader-response criticism in the foreign language classroom. In the above-quoted article he suggests using this approach of literary scholarship in the context of film teaching, too. He starts from the assumption that the viewers of films are no mere passive consumers of what they see. Instead, they have to combine what is shown and what is not shown in order to understand the story of a film. This may mean that they identify with a character, that they enter as participants into what is seen, heard and pronounced, which does not exclude evaluation later on. On the contrary, in class it is absolutely necessary for the students to evaluate if only to compare their value judgements.
If the learners want to escape manipulation, it is also necessary for them to reflect on their processes of reception. In doing so they will find out that fictitious characters in literature or feature films resemble real human beings. In Bend it like Beckham, the characters eventually prove to be good-natured and understanding. Therefore it is possible for both Jess and her sister Pinky to find a different way out of their problems so that they become happy the very same day. The basic mood in the film, then, is like that in a fairy tale.
It asks two important questions. (1) What is the relationship of natives and immigrants? (2) What is the attitude of the dominant majority towards the minorities in their country? And in discussing these questions the students can learn something about the world and themselves.
This theoretical approach has at least two practical implications. Firstly, Bredella draws attention to the fact that the text of Bend it like Beckham is also available as a didactic edition (cf. below) and that the annotations in it may be used to help the understanding of the film (cf. p. 32, note 2). Secondly, there is a worksheet (a grid) for practical classroom procedure (p. 30). The students are asked to find out what the basic meaning of soccer is like for different characters in the film. Possible answers are: soccer may be a symbol of emancipation for women, but it may also be a symbol for understanding and assimilation. For Bredella, Jess is an individual both British and Indian (p. 32).
After the publication of Bredella's article, the film under consideration was chosen as an obligatory work for the first centrally organized final exam (Abitur) in North Rhine Westphalia in 2007. This may help to account for the fact that, at present, four comprehensive teaching models are to be found on the didactic market which will be reviewed below. This file, then, deals with Bend it like Beckham only.
The author starts from the assumption that this film is most appropriate for a ninth form (p. 43). If it is used at this early stage of Foreign Language Teaching (FLT), it is understandable for Hildebrand to think the dialogues are not easy (p. 43). However, the learning situation is certainly different if you present the film at an advanced stage, namely shortly before the final exam, as it was decided by the Ministery of Education in North Rhine Westphalia. In order to ease the comprehension of the film for the pupils the author thinks it advisable to use German subtitles, also because of the fact that allegedly the British DVD has no English subtitles.
I would like to make three remarks in this context. (1) Anslinger/van Els and Weißling (cf. below) use a DVD version which has English subtitles. (2) Using English or German subtitles is highly problematic since this procedure draws attention away from listening comprehension. (3) Moreover, it is unnecessary to present subtitles if you use Hildebrand's vocabulary list for pre-teaching (cf. below): either the teachers could have the whole list photocopied for the students so that they may consult it whenever they want to or they may introduce the unknown lexical items before presenting individual key scenes.
The next part called "Synopsis and interpretation" is the first major chapter (pp. 47-63), and it is written in German again. To be frank, it is more like a reproduction than like a critical analysis. The author's 'interpretation' refers to the events, to the two major characters, some examples of symbols, to a few role expectations concerning women in general and Jess Bhamra in particular, etc. Later on, the users are told that they may derive answers to a set of fundamental questions from this chapter (p. 71): this means that the teachers have to translate several passages from Hildebrand's text.
This is followed by a section entitled: "Central scenes and their mise-en-scène" (pp. 63-69); it refers to six important scenes from the film which are described in German again while technical terms for film analysis are provided in English: they are put in brackets and illustrated by stills from the film printed in black and white. Later on in the book, there is a glossary containing technical terminology (pp. 131-141); taken together, the two sections mean a certain achievement because the teacher could use these scenes for close inspection in order to introduce technical terms.
The next page (p. 70) deals with a rather enthusiastic review of the film, which has been annotated by the author so that it is easier for the learners to read. Otherwise, there are no comments when and how to use this text in class.
The following chapter deals with the didactic dimension of the author's considerations. Firstly, there are basic questions (pp. 71-73) which refer to all 25 sequences of the film; the number of questions varies from one to five. Secondly, there is a worksheet in order to characterize the two protagonists Jess and Jules (p. 74). Thirdly, there are some methodological suggestions for the above mentioned central scenes: they may be shown several times in class in order to analyse them in cinematographic respect, and they may also be used for a test paper (Klausur). A brief fourth section deals with the discussion of reviews (pp. 75-76), which may be found on the internet and from which major statements may be collected and contrasted according to positive and negative aspects. This is followed by a few lines concerning project work (p. 76): the students may analyse the marketing strategy for the film, analyse the film's trailer or produce a trailer by themselves for instance.
The last major part consists of a comprehensive glossary for all sequences of the film (pp. 77-89). Mostly there are English definitions, sometimes German translations in it. Unfortunately, the author does not offer any examples of phonetic transcription, which will certainly be necessary in the case of blouse for example. This glossary also includes information on British soccer players as well as on allusions to Indian culture. Since the author does not say anything about his criteria for selection, it is debatable, of course, whether all explanations are necessary: words like proud, to realise, skirt, to behave, summer job, to please, to suffer, etc. are probably known to a ninth form.
However, basically this list could be regarded as annotations in an edition of the film script; in Hildebrand's study, vocabulary lists are also offered for Stand by me and About a Boy. On the one hand, there is no corresponding part in any of the teaching models discussed below. On the other hand, in the case of Bend it like Beckham, the teacher may get a didactic edition of the text from the Klett publishing house (cf. above).
And there is no systematic discussion of film presentation as well as of film comprehension. The author's interpretation perhaps comes up to the demands of a ninth form but it does not fulfil the criteria for the advanced level of FLT in our country. As a result, there can be no doubt about the fact that the methodological level in all three teaching models discussed below is superior to that achieved by Hildebrand. They are much better worked out, more fully devoloped, much more imaginative and therefore more valuable for the teacher.
This publication, which is based on the English DVD version by Redbus Home Entertainment (2003), is the first 'real' teaching model which possesses both didactic and methodological elements. It consists of four components: 1) Stereotypes, 2) Jess between two idols: the famous football player David Beckham and Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, 3) Children and parents, 4) Asians in Great Britain.
Apart from that, the user will find the parts typical of the Schöningh series, in which quite a number of models on teaching both full-length literary texts and feature films have appeared already: character constellation, scene index, preliminary reflections concerning the use of the film in Foreign Language Teaching (FLT), suggestions for two written tests and considerations concerning the concept of the teaching model. Since the suggestions for testing interrupt the discussion of two didactic aspects and should also be placed at the end of any teaching unit, I will discuss them below.
In their didactic reflections concerning the use of films in FLT, the authors point out that film analysis has had its proper place in the foreign language classroom for some time by now (p. 11). According to the new Curricula in North Rhine Westphalia, media literacy is to become a basic skill. Since film teaching starts at the intermediate stage (Sekundarstufe I) already, the knowledge of technical vocabulary is taken for granted (p. 11). Furthermore the team maintains that the film in question is easy to understand in linguistic respect (p. 11). I am not so sure about this since viewing a film in a foreign language is rather difficult as a rule. In this particular case, speed and dialect also come in if you think of the dialogues between Jess and her sister Pinky for example.
In developing their concept of the teaching model the authors start from the assumption that a presentation of the complete film has to take place at the beginning (p. 20). This is a plausible standpoint in itself, yet teachers have to realize that its running time is 1:41:45, which means that they need more than a double period, probably three lessons for its complete reception. However, otherwise, Anslinger and van Els argue, the students cannot choose any aspects for close inspection (p. 20). As a pre-viewing activity they recommend having the students speculate about the meaning of the title. On p. 3 already they offer some quotations alluding to the title and two photos in order to get the course started. After previewing, the students should see the connections between two stills from the film and the quotations already mentioned. The sociogram which illustrates the constellation of characters (p. 6) may help to test the global comprehension of the film.
All components start from the experiences of the pupils (p. 20). The authors plan neither a systematic analysis of the film nor a chronological discussion of key scenes. The four components are to be used independently from each other in different classes at different stages of teaching. An analysis of cinematographic devices may be integrated into any component (p. 20). On the one hand, it may be regarded as a practical advantage that such a flexible use of the whole teaching guide is possible. On the other hand, one may argue that the teaching model is not determined by a coherent concept. The authors develop many useful suggestions for classroom procedure, but the teachers should not expect any specific lesson plans. When choosing such an approach there is no alternative to viewing the complete film at or even before the beginning of the teaching model.
Next there are some warming-up activities for the topic 'women playing football', which are followed by the first presentation of a scene from the film in which, according to the authors, the favourable impression of the female soccer players is in sharp contrast to far-spread prejudices (p. 26). The pupils' next task consists in matching quotations on a photocopiable page and characters from the film, which is quite a demanding task.
In an additional text, which is to be prepared as homework, among other aspects, it is pretended that virtually all female soccer players are lesbians (p. 31). I would say that this text is full of clichés, and, fortunately, the authors state explicitly that they think criticism is desirable (p. 30). If the teacher, then, uses an open discussion to correct the message of the text, the procedure is acceptable, of course. Again there is a comparison of a text to two quotations from the film (p. 32) so that again no scene from the film itself is shown.
Apart from these suggestions, the authors have hit upon an attractive device: the students are asked to write a voice-over for a scene, which is viewed without sound first, from different persons' point-of-view (p. 33). The teachers should make sure that the creative contributions by the students should be in accordance with the film scene. This component is finished by a talkshow (p. 34) in which several characters of the film, such as Jess, Jess's father, Joe, Jules, her parents, Pinky, etc. argue that they have been victims of stereotyping: the students are expected to take over their roles.
Some critical remarks
Secondly, methodological procedure in this component sometimes is far from being ideal: first there is a definition, then an application of it to a scene which is extremely brief. I wonder whether it would not be more motivating to start by confronting the students with some scenes from the film and have them characterize their first impressions about them.
Thirdly, in my opinion, there are serious substantial problems in this approach. It is true that, in the sociological text mentioned above, generalizations (as part of stereotypes) are said "to represent a natural part of the learning process" (p. 25). Yet it is not explained how and why they come about so easily. The problem is that any definition of one's own group produces a feeling of solidarity with and pride in them: thus a cognitive and emotional dimension are combined in order to bring about a favourable value judgement about one's own group. In other words, everybody thinks in categories and naturally wants to belong to other people in order to become an insider, i.e. the member of an in-group. As a consequence, everybody who and everything that is different (that is characterized by "otherness") is regarded with distrust, possibly with fear, and then a categorization easily leads to overcategorization, which is unjust and responsible for the rejection of others. Thus a natural human process, a process of definition (Abgrenzung) may produce hostility and refusal of others who become outsiders (Ausgrenzung). This is something that one does not find in the first component. Thus the underlying concept of stereotypes is unsatisfactory.
Moreover, it is not the only questionable aspect in this field. In England, according to the film and its director Gurinder Chadha, female soccer is far from being accepted (p. 30). The authors seem to accept this thesis and to be of the opinion that in Germany the situation is similar. As to the legal situation, this may be true since female soccer has been allowed both in Germany and in England since the early 1970s. However, Anslinger/van Els do not see perhaps that the general attitude towards women's football in Great Britain and in our country at present is quite different.
In Germany soccer has become increasingly popular during the last three or four decades, which is due to the fact that Germany has been very successful in this field: our female soccer players have won several European Championships since 1996 and are the present World Champions. Players such as Birgit Prinz or Steffi Jones, just like David Beckham, could function as idols for soccer fans. And if there is a successful sportsman, his/her discipline is always acknowledged and highly spoken of. One could quote Boris Becker and tennis, Michael Schumacher and formula 1 racing, Regina Halmich and female boxing as well-known examples.
Therefore I wonder whether it is really necessary to 'deconstruct' stereotypes concerning female soccers in class (pp. 24ff). Male and female soccers have been following the same rules for a long time, and even in Great Britian, since 1999 soccer has become the most important sport for women (Schaeffer, 2004:16; cf. note below). It is the plain truth that women's football is as attractive as that of men because there are few fouls, fine passes, good shots and beautiful saves; in addition, women soccer players have also become good athletes. It is small wonder, then, that David Beckham is a fan of female soccer (cf. Schaeffer, 2004:16).
Thus sometimes in this part of the teaching model, the authors seem to be flogging a dead horse. I would prefer starting from a brainstorming session about women playing soccer: I would expect that both male and female students' reactions in class would be completely different from what is stated in the film. Anyway, in its present form, the first component is the most problematical of the four.
Then there is a text about Guru Nanak, which is to be pre-read as a homework assignment and to be characterized with the help of a mind-map by the learners. Next the same procedure concerning Guru Nanak is practised as before concerning David Beckham. The students fill in another two-page grid concerning the guru so that a direct comparison of the two idols becomes possible. After that, four brief scenes from the film are presented twice. They show that Guru Nanak is an authority for Jess: he is a help for her to find her own way.
This is followed by an additional text about soccer as a substitute religion, which helps to structure the understanding of the film; the results of text analysis are written down (e.g. on the blackboard or on a transparency for use at the OHP). Jess obviously thinks that Guru Nanak has blessed her. As a creative task it is suggested that the students write down a diary entry by Jess during her flight to the U.S.A. In this it should become clear that Jess tries to combine traditional religion and her own way.
The content of this component is close to the life experience of the students: at the same time it contributes to a better understanding of the film. The unit is carefully worked out and looks as if it has been successfully tried out in practice.
Beckham's report somehow seems to be idealized because he has internalized his father's norms completely. Again there is a semantic field for blackboard work. A critical analysis of the Beckham text is desirable: what about the problems when a child does not come up to the expectations of his parents and eventually becomes the victim of their expectations? The authors think that this is a very good occasion to apply the hot-seat principle: some pupils act as David Beckham, others fire a set of critical questions at them.
The conflicts of this kind are transferred in the course of this component to Joe and his father, to Jess and her father, to Jules and her parents. For these aspects, the authors develop different methodological devices, for example viewing tasks for film analysis, film presentation without sound, and different tasks for text production. Finally, a role play based on cards rather than on pre-fabricated texts is to take place in class. The underlying assumption is that Jess has become a football star in the U.S.A.: thus she and her father are interviewed by two journalists. The class members have to observe and to comment upon the persons involved in the role play, while these have to speak about their experiences in it.
Like component 2, component 3 is both acceptable and attractive: teachers will find a great diversity of devices for classroom procedure in it.
The last two parts of this component provide a link with the film again: there is some information about Southall (which is close to Heathrow airport): this is where the Bhamra family lives. Topical aspects are mentioned, too, for example the terrorist bomb attacks on the London tube on 7-7-2005 and the consequences for British immigrants. The last part of this component and of the teaching model as a whole is devoted to the climax of the film: the scenes of Jess's final football match and Pinky's wedding, and the many examples of cross-cutting, which is the most important cinematic device in these events. Concerning them, there is a two-page worksheet for pair work so that at last a comparison between Jess and her sister Pinky takes place.
The second test also consists of a comparison: this time, a scene from the film East is East is to be compared to a piece of expository prose about the situation of Pakistanis in Great Britain (pp. 16-17). This is a more open and therefore more ambitious task, because it is based on a general survey of the problems dealt with in this teaching model. In both cases expected answers are given in English, which is certainly very convenient for the teachers.
And there are some linguistic problems. Concerning Jules, the correct form of the English s-genitive is Jules's rather than Jule's (p. 9). In German the correct form is Jules' : on p. 65 the apostrophe is missing. In English there are no capitals after a colon (cf. e.g. p. 14, p. 18). In an additional text one sentence runs: "Thinking that if bound in marriage Guru Nanak might start taking interest in household affairs a suitable match was found for him" (p. 41). This is a misrelated or (so-called pendent) participle since the introductory "thinking" does not refer to a personal subject. This is not acceptable in traditional grammar and should be explained to the students.
Two pages later (p. 43), the reference to the bibliography should be p. 86 rather than p. 87. Rather than using the forms "1. scene, 2. scene. 3. scene" it would be more appropriate to say better 1st, 2nd, 3rd scene (p. 54). And the London borough after which the football team is named is Hounslow rather than Houndslow (p. 63).
This is the first bibliography to draw attention to Bredella's article above, yet it is not quoted in the teaching model itself. On the one hand, it is the only example of a print medium listed here. On the other hand, the authors offer many references to sites on the internet.
Moreover, the authors offer a lot of practical help for preparing teaching procedure, and there is a great deal of methodological variation and imaginativeness on their part. It is the custom in many teacher's guides to have the didactic dimension discussed in German whereas tasks/questions/assignments and possible solutions are offered in the target language. Work in this teaching model is sometimes considered as deductive or as guided by additional sources; to my mind, it would be preferable to suggest inductive procedure whenever possible. Still I think that in particular components 2-4 are well-founded units which were developed by competent teachers. Apart from the first component, then, this is a teaching model which is highly recommendable.
This teaching model belongs to the well-known Cornelsen series dealing with film studies in the foreign language classroom; it is based on the English DVD version published by Lingua-Video.com (p. 3). To begin with, I would like to describe its constituent parts.
This is followed by an index of scenes (Szenenprotokoll; pp. 10-13), which may help any recipient to arrive at a survey of the plot of the film. Technical terms for film analysis are put in italics, their meaning can be seen from Worksheet 17, on which the relevant terms are explained with the help of illustrations as they can be found in comic strips.
The core of the teaching model consists of eight teaching units (pp. 14-43). In his introduction, the author points out that these do not follow a linear progression (p. 3). In practice this means that there are gaps between the individual scenes analysed; in other words: the model does not aim at being complete, it offers a selection of key scenes whose order corresponds to their chronological arrangement in the film. The eight units will be further characterized below.
These are followed by tasks for the whole film (pp. 44-45). Obviously they are based on the implicit assumption that a film is more than the sum of its shots as it may help the recipients to come to a synopsis. Again the tasks consist of questions or assignments which may be used for oral and/or for written work, for filling in charts/diagrams, for group work and students' reports and possibly also for written tests. However, these tasks only make sense when the students know the complete film. Yet the author tells us nowhere when, how, and under what circumstances the reception of the film as a whole is going to happen.
The eight teaching units already mentioned go together with an impressive number of worksheets (pp. 46-62): there are 15 of them altogether, that is, the teacher is offered at least one, sometimes two or three, for every teaching unit. If he uses all of them, classroom procedure will not only be guided by them, it may also become boring eventually. Yet Weißling makes it clear from the very beginning that he wants his colleagues to make selections from the material offered (p. 3) as well as to follow their own ideas (p. 7). In other words, he wants to stimulate the creative talents of teachers and students (p. 3).
The rest of the book consists of the following parts:
(2) Film Studies Extras: these contain two more worksheets which have got slightly wrong page references: workheet 16 is to be found on page 66, number 17 covers pages 67-71. These worksheets deal with still skills and technical vocabulary for film analysis.
(3) This is followed by a bibliography (Literatur) which consists of print media only (p. 72) whereas several internet links are to be found within the model itself. However, it is strange to say that basic studies of film analysis like those by Hickethier or Monaco which are listed in this bibliography are never quoted or referred to in the model itself. Thus the bibliography is not a documentation of works cited and should better be entitled: "For further reading".
All Cornelsen film studies are supplemented by a CD entitled "At the Cutting Edge - An Interactive Introduction to Film Analysis", which contains very attractive material concerning film terms, film jobs, etc. To my mind, it would be a good idea to make this CD accessible to the learning group so that they could use it for self-study. Undoubtedly additional material of this kind is particularly attractive for possible users.
Some characteristic features
The teaching units are divided into different pre-, while- and post-viewing activities, a distinction which has become a familiar one in the teaching of full-length films by now. Pre-reading tasks are often used to prepare the presentation of a film scene, when the students are asked to imagine what they would do in a similar situation. They may also ease comprehension when the learners have to read a part from the filmscript, to complete a defective dialogue from the film, to put scrambled sentences into the correct order, etc.
While-viewing assignments are usually in the centre of a lesson: on the one hand, they refer to the development of the four basic skills, on the other hand, they aim at an interpretation of the film scenes shown in class. Several levels may be distinguished in this context. Thus the different assignments relate to the life experience of the students, but they also include information on Indian culture, for example about the Sikhs' engagement rites, their religion, their value system, etc. so that the foundation for intercultural learning is laid: this is when additional material which may be found on the worksheets becomes relevant. Intercultural learning also includes cross-cultural dating and interracial marriages: possibly the students know famous mixed couples from the media. In this context more films (all in all 10 in number) about the same topic are recommended, among them: My Beautiful Laundrette, The Buddha of Suburbia, East is East. But Bend it like Beckham is also analysed in cinematographic respect: the students may learn technical terms of camera work (movement, perspective, etc.) as well as their functions and effects.
Post-viewing activities often go beyond the analysis of the film proper. Thus the students may work out what Jules and Jess may think during their long flight over the Atlantic Ocean, or they may write an interview after their first match in the U.S.A. It is also motivating to work out a talk between Jess and Beckham, in which the girls put the questions and the boys answer them, and, for fun's sake, do it the other way round.
And the teaching units also refer to some problems of daily routine such as possible homework tasks which sometimes become an integral part of the next lesson: the students are asked for example to do some research work on the internet and to present their results in class (e.g. concerning family values of Sikhism). And they also make suggestions concerning the use of written notes on the blackboard, the overhead projector, a wall paper or a poster: these may help to memorize things and become interesting again at a later stage of the teaching model.
All in all, the author shows a great deal of imaginativeness in devising possible steps for classroom procedure: in this publication the teacher will find a great variety of methodological suggestions and material to solve the daily problems of teaching. On the one hand, the model under consideration is no mere resource book; on the other hand, it is no dogmatic programme of specific classroom steps either. One attractive characteristic feature of the model, then, is its open concept, its flexibility, which is highly appropriate for in-depth study of many key scenes from the film.
In addition, the use of subtitles not only draws attention away from the spoken word, but also from the visual dimension of the film. This means that it is no longer possible to pursue one major aim in film teaching, namely to use the visual dimension in order to develop listening comprehension, which is the most basic of the four skills in order to prepare the students for everyday communication. If comprehension problems are caused by speed, the corresponding passage should be presented twice. If the problems result from dialect, the major forms should be introduced in a separate step before.
Still it may happen that the obstacles of comprehension seem to be unsurmountable. In such a case the subtitles have to be shown temporarily, and then withdrawal of assistance has to take place. As one example, one might point to the songs with which this film is interspersed. Their texts may be shown as subtitles since musical interpretations may be too difficult to understand. It may still be a better alternative to download the texts from the internet so that the students may pre-read them.
Weißling also states: "Deutsche Untertitel sollten jüngeren oder weniger leistungsfähigen Klassen vorbehalten sein" (p. 3). One may argue that, of course, German subtitles solve all comprehension problems but that they also neglect listening (Thaler, 2007:10). This reminds me of the absurd situation in the past when Shakespeare's works were discussed in English but read in German because his language was thought to be too difficult for the learners. If the teacher has recourse to L 1 subtitles all the time, the learning effect is next to nothing. In my opinion, in such a case a film should not be used with intermediate students but shown at a more advanced stage.
My second point of criticism refers to the presentation of the film, which occurs in extremely short segments: the key scenes analysed, as a rule, last one or two minutes only so that the students watch about 15-20 minutes out of a whole running time of roughly 100 minutes. This shows that the sandwich method is applied in a very rigorous and extreme way. Other adherents of the same approach, as a rule, recommend presenting much longer blocks, which may last up to 30 or even 45 minutes, that is a film of average length will be shown in class perhaps in three parts.
The question, then, arises, how the pieces of the puzzle presented in this case may become a coherent whole in the minds of the learners. And there is only one part in the model, namely the tasks for the whole film, which may help to counterbalance the tendency that, on the part of the students, the reception of the film is falling to pieces. Personally I doubt very much whether these assignments can be a compensation for the fragmentation of the film.
Now it turns out to be a deficiency that the author never discusses the assumptions on which his suggestions for teaching are founded. It is well possible by now that the students are familiar with the content of the film because they have seen its German version - for example on TV. If this is not the case, I would strongly recommend that it is shown uninterruptedly in class either before the beginning or at least, as a kind of synopsis, at the end of the teaching unit. After doing so much analytical work, the students, at least once, should enjoy its complete presentation at one sitting. And if there are time constraints, there might be the possibility of making the film accessible to the learning group, for example in the school's media room, its self-access centre, etc., so that they may view it or longer parts of it whenever they like. Apart from that, it is recommendable to supplement close inspection by cursory viewing in class during the course of the teaching sequence.
Some minor problems remain to be discussed. On one occasion Weißling writes: "Die Orwellsche Vision des Kinos mit 'feelies' statt 'movies' hat sich noch nicht durchgesetzt" (p. 29). It may well be the case that George Orwell mentions the feelies in his anti-utopian novel 1984, yet it is a fact that their vision as shallow movie pictures appealing to all senses goes back to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932; cf. chapter 16).
In his suggestions for written test papers the three question pools are divided into tasks referring to reproduction, analysis and interpretation. To my mind, the latter two terms are largely used synonymously. Since individual solutions are expected with the third pool (p. 65), I would suggest to abandon the term interpretation and to use evaluation instead.
Another terminological problem occurs in the "Tasks for the whole film". The text for one assignment runs: "The film plays a lot with prejudices, stereotypes and clichés. Which ones? How are they confirmed and how contradicted? Give reasons for your answer". This is followed by an interesting list of prejudices, stereotypes and clichés (p. 44). Again my problem is that the terms stereotypes and clichés are interchangeable. Therefore I feel that a basic definition of the three key terms should be given for this task.
To conclude: apart from these shortcomings, I would like to maintain that the book is very carefully written. Neither in the English questions/tasks/assignments nor in the keywords offered as solutions did I find any errors. And of the teaching models discussed here it has the most comprehensive bibliography. All in all, this is a publication which is to be warmly recommended.
Teachers should be grateful to the publishing houses: they are obviously doing their best to facilitate teaching and make it both attractive and effective for the learners of English as a foreign language. This endeavour can also be seen from many parts of the publication under consideration.
The theoretical discussion in this teaching model is extremely brief. In a one-page introduction the authors just state that Bend it like Beckham is very appropriate for the FL classroom and that it is also an extremely productive film concerning the analysis of its cinematographic technique (p. 3).
This is followed by a scene index in English (pp. 4-7), which gives a very detailed overview of the plot of the film and which at the same time is a good help for orientation.
Next comes a large part entitled Pre-viewing (Part A: pp. 8-20). These activities include finding reasons for the success of the film, discussing film posters, information about football, the football star David Beckham, the director of the film, its actors and actresses, etc. And they also deal with so-called fact files concerning arranged marriages, Sikhism and the integration of Indian immigrants into British society, background information about India, working with a film in English language teaching, etc.
From such a brief survey it may be surmised already that this part is very comprehensive, and, at first sight, it may seem unrealistic to use all of this in class. Personally, for previewing, I would use probably no more than two or three of the suggestions made above. Yet it is obvious that the strategy of the authors is to make teaching as easy as possible: they offer a large amount of material they have collected from different sources, and it is very convenient for both teachers and pupils to be able to photocopy interesting information. Only later in the model does it become perceptible that some of this material may also be used for independent work.
Part B is entitled Viewing and understanding, which deals with a careful consideration of several key scenes (pp. 24-39). These include, for example, the first and the last scenes of the film, the scene in which there is a rapid alternation between Jess's final and her sister Pinky's wedding, but also scenes in which misunderstandings between Jess and her friend Jules and, of course, Jess's conflicts with her parents are described, etc. As a rule the discussion of these scenes in class is made up of pre-viewing, while-viewing and post-viewing tasks, which has become a standard distinction in working with films by now.
However, the concept of the teaching model as a whole goes clearly beyond the analysis of selected key scenes. Such an activity is supplemented by so-called close-ups of selected aspects which are realized by the students themselves: they form groups, they choose topics from a list, or possibly they even find a topic of their own and prepare a presentation of it, in which each member has to play an active role. These topics refer to Indian culture, love and friendship, the main characters, techniques of film making (such as genre, music, camera work, visual symbols), additional material on the DVD, etc.
It goes without saying that such an approach requires careful preparation. Therefore film analysis itself is preceded by some lessons in which such a project is organized (pp. 22-23). In my opinion, these pages have a key function for teachers in preparing their own teaching unit. According to the authors, at the beginning of the sequence, the whole film is presented section by section in the first 20-25 minutes of each lesson so that after five lessons each student knows the complete film (its running time is about 100 minutes).
After that they will view it more closely when the individual parts are shown again. The selected scenes follow the chronological order of the film which has no flashbacks. In comparison to Weißling's approach, one may conclude that the sandwich method is applied in a less extreme way. Then there are plenary sessions, but also group work, and the dates for the presentations by the students are set. Thus the concept under consideration may be compared to a resource book, a 'buffet' from which teachers can select what best answers the interests of their learning groups: there are appetizers, main dishes, desserts, which may be understood as metaphors for different pre-, while- and post-reading activities. All the worksheets are photocopiable, and the input is accompanied by practical assignments: different 'meals' will be the result, which may be used either in forms 9/10 or 11/12.
Part C: A step further
Part D: Test papers
Part E: Further information
First of all, it should be pointed out that there are many vocabulary aids, e.g. concerning film analysis, teenage talk, or football. However, these are no mere lists but they have to be applied in practice: lexical work means language in action, integration into either speech utterances or written texts, which should increase the learners' proficiency in the target language. In the case of teenage talk, the students may write a diary entry, a letter to an agony aunt, or a telephone conversation; in the case of football, they may write a commentary. Technical terms of film analysis may become relevant in parts C or D for example.
Among the exercises and methodological exercises which are recommended it may be sufficient to quote the following ones: fill-in-exercises, true-false-statements, scrambled stills, matching and ranking, writing summaries, mini-stories and reviews, writing interior monologues, letters to a friend or a character in the film, using complexity scales and mood charts in character profiles, etc. In general, the authors suggest that the pupils use a viewing log that is, similar to the use of a response journal with a literary text, the students write down their impressions concerning the analysis of a film. This is a sensible long-term strategy in order to help them memorize all the written texts which may relate to every aspect of the teaching unit and help them to prepare their written tests for example.
One such aspect concerns the information about India. On the one hand, there is an Indian glossary (p. 65): this has little more than 15 entries and does not contain any peculiarities, for example dialect forms of Indian English. In the pre-viewing tasks, there is an India Quiz (p. 15), in which the learner is told: "The map and the picture will help you." As a matter of fact this is not the case. In the map you can see New Delhi; however, if you do not know whether Bombay or New Delhi is the Indian capital, the map is no help. In the solutions the capital is referred to simply as Delhi. To my mind, this quiz is a very difficult fill-in-exercise. Alphabetically arranged keywords would have been very helpful for the learners. And I do not see any reason why the authors of the following novels about India, namely Heat and Dust and Staying on, were omitted (p. 59): the former was written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (first published in 1975), the author of the latter (published in 1977) is Paul Scott.
But what is more: it is a standard procedure by now that in teaching material of any kind, solutions are given for questions/tasks/assignments. In this teaching model concerning the India quiz it is the first time that solutions are offered (they are printed upside down). Another previewing task consists of matching certain meanings of body language with nouns and adjectives. For this, the authors again do not offer any solutions. To my mind, you need expert knowledge in order to find the correct solutions, and since it is not possible to find them in a reference work or on the internet, this is a serious gap.
A similar problem occurs in the following pre-viewing task (p. 31): "When two people who are members of the Roman Catholic Church or the Church of England plan to get married, the marriage banns [public announcements; my explanation] are read in the relevant parish churches on three successive Sundays. This is done to make sure that there is no 'impediment' to the marriage. Find out what kind of 'impediments' there are" (p. 31). I do not know what occurs in the Church of England. As to the Roman Catholic Church, however, the truth is that marriage banns are no longer read. Besides, according to the teaching model, in the Roman Catholic Church, previous marriage is listed as an impediment; of course, this is only the case if a former partner is still alive. As to the Church of England, the reader does not learn anything in that respect. There is no reason why solutions should not be given. So there is not only another serious gap, but also a deplorable inconsistency.
As a rule, key scenes are accompanied by pre-, while-, and post-viewing tasks. For scene 26 (p. 31) and scene 33 (p. 33), however, there are no while-viewing tasks to be found in the teaching model. Therefore the user naturally wonders why these two were chosen for close inspection. Concerning such aspects it would highly desirable that the teaching model were more coherent. Finally, I feel that it would be more appropriate to have a bibliography which includes some authoritative sources concerning film analysis, either written in German such as the monographs by Hickethier, Faulstich, Kuchenbuch or written in English such as the books by Maltby/Craven or Monaco; cf. below. However, this is a problem with many models on film teaching.
There were only very few linguistic problems: the authors use the form happy ending and happy end (p. 36), and also decisive goal and deciding goal (pp. 24-25). To my mind happy end and deciding goals are germanisms, which had better be avoided. The compound noun one-sentence review should be written with a hyphen (p. 53).
A review article was published by Krause:
According to this author, all four models have the following characteristic features in common:
- they focus on content;
This means that at least some methodological principles of film teaching exist which are more or less generally accepted.
After I had finished writing the above reviews, it was my dear friend Graham Wilson who directed my attention to the following contribution about 'Bend it like Beckham':
The rest of the contribution is written in English (pp. 62-76). This is started by a page entitled "Context" (p. 62), which lists some facts about the film, its director, its title, and some of its actresses. It is followed by a film synopsis and some attempts at an interpretation (story of initiation, reversal of standard roles; p. 63). Next comes a so-called "teacher fact sheet" whose name is unintelligible to me since it refers to football and cricket, beliefs and symbols (Sikh religion) as well as language (verbal aggressiveness; cf. p. 64).
Suggestions for teaching
The next part entitled "Sequential Viewing" may be regarded as the core of this contribution: in current terminology it may be called "while-viewing activities" (pp. 66-69). The first tasks deal with Punjabi/Sikh, British and German "role expectations" for a woman and are applied to Mr and Mrs Bhamra and to Jules's mother (p. 66).
The following class assignment deals with "cultures in contest" and relates to the clash between the Punjabi and the British society: the students are asked to make a list of differences and reasons that cause the conflict. This problem is illustrated by Mr Bhamra's experiences in Great Britain as a cricket player (p. 67).
The next page entitled "taboo topics" deals with two aspects, namely homosexuality as well as everyday stereotyping and labelling. Homosexuality may be discussed with reference to Jesminder's friend Tony, whereas stereotyping and labelling occurs both in Punjabi/Sikh as well as in British culture. As examples in the film one may quote the term "Gora" used by the Asians for white Britains and "Paki" used by an English girl for Jess (p. 68). These belong to a far-spread form of verbal aggressiveness directed against other people or groups of people: offensive terms like Nigger, Polaks, Krauts, Okies, Goyim ... (unbelievers from an orthodox Jewish point-of-view) are frequently used in the English language.
The last page in this section deals with Mr Bhamra's final speech entitled "Move on up" in which he argues that nobody has the right to stop Jess. In this scene Mr Bhamra is presented as an understanding father rather than as an intolerant person rooted in the tradition of his native country.
This section includes tables, excerpts i.e. transcriptions from the film's dialogues, including two fill-in-exercises in order to check comprehension (the solutions may be found in an answer key; cf. p. 74). On the one hand, all this undoubtedly provides the teacher with interesting and attractive material which may be used as worksheets in class. If, on the other hand, only four kernel scenes from the whole film are discussed, it is a small amount which cannot be sufficient. These aspects may be important in themselves, however, in the context of the whole film they are arbitrarily chosen aspects. Anyway, a shaping principle for a possible teaching unit does not become perceptible.
This section is supplemented by four pages dealing with film reviews and review writing (pp. 70-73). Again one cannot but conclude that the use of reviews is a familiar aspect of film analysis by now. With any doubt, reviews are nowadays very popular in foreign language instruction, particularly as subject matter for written tests. This may also be due to the fact that they are often easily accessible on the internet. As a rule, they lack temporal and critical perspective so that the students may be expected to work out their deficiencies and shortcomings and to add a critical opinion of their own.
Apart from the suggestion to read a short story by Hanif Kureishi ("My Son the Fanatic", which is also available as a film version; cf. p. 75), Mrs Grimm does not list any post-viewing activities. And she does not mention imaginative extensions or creative tasks either. The rest of her contribution refers to a bibliography of further sources and recommendations as well as to related resources above all from the internet (pp. 75-76).
There are a few more secondary sources which deal with the film Bend it like Beckham:
To conclude: all these contributions are meant to be a help for the teachers to prepare a sequence of lessons for this popular film. The only problem is that probably most of the colleagues will not find the time to read, to swallow and to digest them all.