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“Established in 1936, Beitar Jerusalem FC is the most controversial team in the Israeli football league”
To say that people are passionate about football would be a massive understatement, but this documentary on Beitar Jerusalem FC displays passion in the extreme.
The title, Forever Pure, is the first warning given by producer/director Maya Zinshtein. It addresses the issue of a Jewish football club proclaiming superiority through purity. Anyone with even sparse knowledge of 20th century history would start feeling queasy at this point. To clarify, the team itself, including the chairman, the coach and other members, including many fans, do not express this view. It is the hardcore fanbase, known as La Familia, who are present at all practice sessions and matches, vocalising these views incessantly.
Forever Pure is essentially an opera, played out in 6 acts. Filmed during the 2012-2013 season as the team are fighting their way up the table, after plummeting to the bottom of the league. The narrative is expertly woven using the abundance of football chants provided by La Familia. These songs are created and recreated at a moment’s notice, relating all current affairs in often bewildering specificity. The heroes of these songs can become villains in a heartbeat.
Here’s an example of a classic chant:
I love you (I love you)
I swear (I swear)
I think about you always and forever
The police won’t stop me
My heart will always be yellow and black
Beitar I’m with you ’til the day I die
I hate Hapoel and hate Maccabi
Yellow and black is in my heart
Go, Beitar, we want to see you fight!
In another chant, they speak of the club’s owner: Russian businessman, Arcadi Gaydamak. They feel utterly betrayed by him, dubbing him a war criminal and assailing him with taunts of impending jail time in France.
Gaydamak speaks candidly about his desire to use ownership of the club for political gain. He recognises that the huge fanbase amounts to a “very interesting propaganda tool.” He holds little interest in the game itself, and is solely motivated by the acquisition of power. This is a dangerous pursuit, courting the affections of a group known for their radical nationalist views. A fraternity which takes pride in being the most racist community in the country. Already vilified by La Familia, Arcadi Gaydamak decides to take action. In an unprecedented move, he signs two new players to the team throwing the club into chaos. It is a question of interpretation whether this is a form of revenge, or a desire to draw attention to extremism, but his actions are manifestly provocative.
Forever Pure is a fast paced documentary, illustrating this brutal scene: Unflinching in its portrayal of violence, corruption, politics and racism. Zinshtein’s documentary offers unfettered access to all participants in this storm of controversy. With the resurgence of right-wing nationalism across the globe, Forever Pure is essential viewing in our present circumstances.