Due to an uncharacteristic lapse of concentration I forgot to pursue my own question: Who made the film and why. Well, now I have. Here’s what I neglected to ferret out yesterday.
You should read it, but you probably won’t so I’ll just extract the best bits.
Maya Zinshtein worked for many years as an investigative reporter for the BBC’s favourite Israeli newspaper - Haaretz. (This is where Mandy Rice Davies’s most famous quotation might be borne in mind. )
The gist of it is that Maya Zinshtein has received harassment from the ‘racist football group’. Evidently this particular ‘racist football group’ (aka Beitar Jerusalem’s right-wing supporters’ group – referred to as La Familia) didn’t like the way they had been depicted in the film.
Ms Zinshtein has received death threats, even. (This death threat malarkey is highly contagious. It seems you haven’t arrived till you’ve had death threats. All self-respecting lefties have had them.)
I must stop being flippant. But this kind of thing makes one come over all flippant and childish.
The biggest villain in the film was the club’s former owner, the oligarch Russian-born billionaire Arcadi Gaydamak. He is too remote and unconcerned about the film to issue any death threats to Ms Zinshtein for the way he was portrayed, largely because he’s in prison in France for money laundering and tax offences.
It was a good film by the way, and it is quite right to shine a spotlight on racism wherever it occurs.
The film made a reasonable effort to show the other side of the coin, too. The generous welcome that was given to the two players from Chechnya by the rest of the team, for one thing. But there was a none too subtle subplot - one of the Muslim players was only 19 and looked like an overgrown schoolboy; half the time he looked as though he was about to burst into tears. He even had his mother with him. Obviously this hiked up the pathos. But if there was pathos, why not film it, I suppose.
There is politics in this. Hugely. We’re back to our old familiar bugbear, context.
“Predictably enough, though, this was no overdue exposé of the virulent antisemitism that a site like MEMRI regularly exposes in the Arab and Iranian media. The subject of the film was - of course - Israel.”
You can see why the BBC liked this film, and why they chose to show it. You should also be able to detect Israel’s remarkably open attitude, when it comes to responding to and exposing itself to such potentially damaging propaganda.
“In holding a mirror to Israeli society, Zinshtein and her editors do an outstanding job of cutting together variable quality television and home-video footage along with her interviews. “Forever Pure” world premiered in competition at the Jerusalem Film Festival in July and nabbed awards for best documentary and editing”.
Dogwoof Global is a London based theatrical distributor which seems to have had a hand in the BBC and other broadcasters acquiring the film. They look like a ‘right-on’ company.
Mick Hartley again:
“My point isn't to criticise the film or its director. It's not only part and parcel of a free society to turn over the stones and look at what's underneath - it's absolutely vital. And this is undoubtedly a powerful piece of film-making, even though it by no means represents the norm in Israeli football. The point is that this is one side of a two-sided debate over the relations between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East, and only one side is playing by these rules. It's inconceivable that such a film would be made in an Arab Muslim country - not only because the necessary freedom and culture of self-criticism isn't there, but also because the idea of a Jew playing in any football team in these countries is generally laughable. Indeed we've seen many cases of sportsmen and women simply refusing to compete against Jews.
It's the same old story: a free society exposes its underbelly; an unfree society keeps its dirty secrets hidden. For the easy moraliser - and this is nowhere more true than with the Israel-Palestine dispute - Israel is condemned as a sick racist society, and therefore the one to blame, precisely because all we hear is this one side. A truly responsible media would make efforts to show both sides - but this is what the BBC never does.”