Documentarian Maya Zinshtein has crafted something remarkable with the incendiary and complex Forever Pure, a look at the dangerous point where nationalism, financial gain, and the sporting world uneasily collide.
Zinshtein was on hand to follow around Beitar Jerusalem F.C. during their pivotal and volatile 2012-13 season. The soccer club, which rose to prominence and success on the backs of a rabid, working class, right wing fan base, had found itself in the basement of the league for four straight years under the inept and brazenly uncaring leadership of owner, former Jerusalem mayor, suspected arms dealer, and admitted non-soccer fan Arcadi Gaydamark.
With tensions between ownership and the fans already at an all time high, Gaydamark throws a tanker full of gasoline on the fire by hiring a pair of Muslim players from Chechnya in the middle of a comeback season, the first Muslim players in the team’s history. Fans protest and leave in droves, threatening team members that don’t fall in line with La Familia, the gooners seen as the team’s most rabid supporters and a pack that wears their racist tendencies proudly.
Forever Pure is equally fascinating and infuriating, and one can’t help but feel sorry for the team’s players for getting caught in the middle of all this. At a certain point, the racism faced by the Muslim players (and the team’s supportive captain) becomes more important to the fans than winning. Zinshtein could have made a film about the racist aspect alone, but she also creates something a lot more complex and nuanced, asking deeper questions that go to the heart of Israeli politics.
Forever Pure might seem like a sports film and a look at how one football club has become problematic, but also how sports teams don’t seem to care about their players beyond creating cash, controversy, and attention for those with the most to gain.