TIFF 2016: Forever Pure Review


Forever Pure refers to the phrase found on a banner held by “fans” standing on the east stand in the Beitar Jerusalem Football Club. “Forever Pure” is the idea that there should not be any Muslim players on that (or any) Israeli team. This documentary directed by Maya Zihnstein documents the 2012 effort to bring two Chechen players to play for Beitar. This powerful film asks if we should be keeping our eyes on the ball rather than engaging in or supporting (by acquiescence) racial and religious intolerance. I would very much recommend this film to complement Gaza Surf Club as a double-feature to stimulate fruitful (and hopefully respectful) conversation afterwards.

What would you say if I told you a Russian magnate embroiled in an arms scandal by the name of Arcadi Gaydamak attempted to broker peace for Israel between Muslims and Jews? Like my friend said, this Russian likes money and saw an opportunity to make a profit – but there are still echoes of Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) in 42. Yes, more fans means more money for some interested parties, but at the same time, you’re also brokering world peace by forcing people to address previously-held racial segregations. Unfortunately, Gaydamak lost money and therefore interest in his “social project.”

Kudos go to the Chechen players, Zaur Sadayev and Dzahabrail Kadiyev (who is only 19 years old). They are always seen together, and for good reason. The hatred towards them is venomous and sickening. It comes from all quarters, but especially the aforementioned east stand, where entrenched right-wing fascists have traditionally watched games from (called “La Familia,” of course, befitting any mafia movie). The racial slurs are not easy to stomach in this movie, especially as you see how it affects Kadiyev and his visiting mother. Allies of the Chechen players include the team captain and members of management (even the announcers of the games too). Many allies were persecuted and threatened for being inclusive. 

Like Jackie Robinson, if you play a good game, that should be all that matters. This film deserves to be mounted on an even larger scale, but we may have to wait as long as Robinson who died some 50 years before 42 was released.

Beitar currently has no Muslims in its team, and does not have any intention of changing this policy.

Michael McNeely is a deaf-blind film critic and advocate for greater accessibility in our cinemas. Read more about his story here.