Red Army

Red ArmyFebruary 23, 2015

Showings 4:30, 7:00 and 9:10pm

USA/Russia
A documentary in Russian with English subtitles
87 minutes

A smash hit at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, director Gabe Polsky’s exhilarating documentary chronicles the rise and fall of Soviet hockey in the 1980s.

During the Cold War battles between East and West played out in sports as much as international politics, as Stalin and his successors saw their athletes as ambassadors of ideology. Red Army reveals one of the most colourful chapters of this history, focusing on the Soviet hockey team and its rivalries with Canada and the USA.  At the centre of the story is Slava Fetisov, one of the greatest players to experience the highs and lows of Soviet hockey prior to the USSR’s collapse. He stood up to a powerful system and paved the way for Russian players to change their circumstances. As Soviet communism gave way to global capitalism, the lure of NHL money unraveled the legendary team known as the Red Army, which had been famed for a graceful style of play that emphasized co-operation and teamwork. When its players entered the NHL, they had to grapple with a more individualistic style, along with Red Scare–fuelled prejudice.

You don’t need to be a hockey fan to get swept up in this story of friendship and divided loyalties. In his feature documentary debut, Polsky draws poignant interviews from key figures of the era, including Fetisov, his teammates, and NHL coach Scotty Bowman.

Highlighting the dramatic stories on and off the ice, the director documents an interchange across the historical East-West divide that shows we still have a lot to learn about each other. Reopening this history makes for one of the most widely appealing documentaries of the year.

There is some genuinely emotional material here, and like the very best sports documentaries, Red Army uses the sports story to discuss society, human behaviour, politics, and modern history.

—Drew McWeeny, HitFix

 

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