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BAFTA Event - Keira Knightley: A Life In Pictures

13 hours after the event, I am still starstruck that I was in the same room with Keira Knightley, as well as many established figures in the British film, TV and game industries.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) is a world-leading independent arts charity. Their members are creatives and professionals working in the film, games and television industries. “BAFTA – A life in pictures” is an event in which an actor or director is interviewed on their professional career. The name refers to the video compilation of their work which is showed on a big screen behind them on stage, and the conversations are based on the clips.

The evening is structured by discussions of Keira’s filmography in chronological order, starting with the first film that made her famous, "Bend It Like Beckham" (2002) and ending with "Collette", which will be released in the UK in January 2019. This structure gave the audience a chance to learn about Keira’s development as an actress as she progressed in her career. Before each discussion, a scene from a movie about to be discussed is played (in many cases the movie's climatic moment), carefully chosen to highlight Keira’s acting talent as well as to capture her character in that film, with the event ending with a Q&A with the audience. The setting of the interview is intimate, with both Keira and the host sitting in centre stage, half facing the audience.


What shone through the interview was Keira’s passion for acting. When explaining why she loves the British film industry, she mentioned “work ethic” as a factor. She said she loves it that many actors she works with in Britain are “obsessed” with their craft and always try to get better instead of being complacent with the amount of money that they can make. Although Keira doesn’t attend many acting classes, she continuously tries to improve her craft by working back-to-back, as well as watching and learning from other actors as much as she can. Her dedication is demonstrated by her thorough research for her roles. She jokingly said that she knew Tolstoy’s "Anna Karenina" by heart in preparation for the film adaptation of the book.

Keira has a strong personal connection with “Bend it like Beckham” (2002). “Bend It Like Beckham” deals with gender inequality in sports, which is something that she has always felt strongly about. She organised a sit-in protest at school when she was 9 when the boys did not let the girls play football. She entered a speech competition at school when she was 12 with a speech on gender inequality. She describes working on “Bend it like Beckham” as a unique and special experience. She reminisced on the bonding and teamwork that took place in the filming process, as well as the diverse cast, which her 16-year-old-self thought was what film-making was all about (she realised later that it is not, however). The film led to Keira’s roles in "Pirates of the Caribbean"(2003) and "Love Actually" (2003). Keira talked humbly about being more successful than she sometimes anticipated. She came to the audition of “Bend it Like Beckham” without caring whether she would get the role. She believed that her free and easy attitude played to her advantage as she became more free to express herself creatively. She also felt a bit silly auditioning for “Pirates of the Caribbean” because she thought that she would not be able to get into Hollywood.

Throughout the interviews, Keira made insightful comments on the characters that she played which demonstrated her thoughtfulness and thorough preparation. In "Atonement" (2007), Keira commented on her character, Cecilia Tallis, as someone with bubbling emotions and sexuality that had to be held in. When talking about "The Imitation Game" (2014), the host applauded Keira’s ability to bring modernity to the movie, which was set in World War Two and might seem distant from the audience. Keira bridged this distance by finding a similarity between modern day and war time. She said that playing a character in war time is about playing someone who lives in an extreme time and deals with extreme situations. Even though we are no longer at war, the similarity between that society and now is that extreme situations still happen, for example Brexit and high SDT rates.

Keira’s career is not without setbacks. She described her life as “crumbling down” and “confusing” around the time of the releases of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies and her rise to fame. Although the movies did well commercially, Keira was criticized by movie critics for her performance. Furthermore, her body was complimented by modelling agencies but was also criticized for promoting unrealistic body images and anorexia. She also struggled with perfectionism, always having been an “A* student” at school however she realised that perfectionism is unobtainable and she can’t always please everyone. One of the most memorable moments during the shooting of “Pride and Prejudice" (2005) for Keira was when an actress could not remember her lines, as this made Keira realize that it is alright to make mistakes. She said that if you don’t make mistakes, the characters you play will not be alive.

I admire Keira for her fierce attitude, which she herself describes as the “fuck you” attitude. When being asked what advice she would give to young women entering any professional careers in the modern world, here is what she said. “You have to keep fighting and go on that this is not good enough. And you are right, this is not good enough. And therefore you must fight and be loud and not sit down and not be told that it’s ok and not be told that it’s normal, because it’s not". Overall, Keira Knightley came across as down to earth, funny and strong and I would recommend “BAFTA: A life in pictures” to film lovers. The event is very well-organised and intimate, as not only are you able to gain insight into the career of the guest speaker, but you also get the opportunity to talk and network with creatives and professionals in the film, TV and game industry.

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