Forever Pure documents the fortunes of Israeli football team Beitar Jerusalem F.C. as they attempt to make amends for repeated seasons of disappointment, and push their way up the league table. After narrowly avoiding relegation the previous year, a hope of qualifying for Europe grows, with the team backed all the way by its fiercely loyal supporters.
It might sound like it has the makings of a feel-good underdog story, but that it most certainly is not.
Quite the opposite, in fact. As in the stands there’s unrest. An unrest which ultimately reveals the corrupt and racist core of the club, and the deplorable nature of its extremist supporters, La Familia. This lot make the Millwall hooligans of the ’80s look like a bunch of kittens. Above their desire to see their Beitar side performing well, their main fight is to uphold the club’s “proud” history as being the only football team in the history of the nation to have never signed a Muslim player. So the chairman’s signing of two Muslim footballers from Chechnya was never likely to go down well. What happens next, however, is even more shocking than you could imagine. Horrifying, unfathomable and gripping all at once.
Director Maya Zinshtein acts as a fly on the wall, providing up close and personal footage from inside the dressing room as the fans turn on the side, spewing vitriol not only at the new signings but also at those that have endorsed them, including the team’s captain whose name they had sung just weeks before. With the audience positioned centrally in amongst the players, it allows you to develop a bond with those being put through the wringer, whilst also putting you uncomfortably close to those at the club that have grown up among La Familia. There’s also a broader look at the view taken on the club by wider society (where bizarrely the events seem to be accepted as nothing short of expected), but it’s delving into the inner workings of Beitar Jerusalem that the film is most fascinating.
At a time when racism in football is still rife, and just months away from Russia, a country renowned for its hate-fuelled hooliganism, hosting the World Cup, Forever Pure shines a light on an issue that plagues not just the sport, but the world at large. And in doing so it stands as a worthy voice in the fight against hate.
Rating (out of 5):
Forever Pure is available on demand now, courtesy of Dogwoof