Sheffield Doc/Fest Review: The Fortress

In this modern connected world, football is possibly the closest thing we have to tribalism. Football is not just a game for some. It’s a way of life. Supporting your team can be the be all and end all. Ties and bonds can compete with those of family and friends. It’s hard to explain if you’ve not experienced it yourself, but it can easily become and all-consuming passion. One which sometimes becomes unhealthy and all encompassing.

In Andres Torres’s new documentary, The Fortress, he follows a group of impoverished young men whose lives revolve around their local team, The Leopards. On the cusp of promotion to the top division, their fans, Fortaleza Leoparda Sur, are determined to play their part in ensuring the team’s success. This supporter group has morphed into a virulent and violent beast which will do anything for Atlético Bucaramanga. They jump on trucks, sleep under the stars and dice with danger on this quest for glory.

The Fortress demonstrates just how easily something like football can fill a void created by unemployment, poverty and degradation. Being an ‘ultra’ becomes a way of life and a means of escape from the privations of daily life. The footage is impressive, especially the mad scramble to secure transportation. The young men preen and posture but it’s in the quieter moments when the masks slip and we see inside their lives. In this, The Fortress succeeds in painting a picture of a country riddled with inequality and violence.

The Fortress screens at Sheffield Doc/Fest on 7 and 10 June.

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