Red Army

“One of the most effortlessly pleasurable distractions in the Cannes festival program, Gabriel Polsky's solo directing debut is a playful documentary about the former Soviet Union's national ice hockey squad, an all-conquering machine schooled under military training-camp conditions as an ideological propaganda weapon.

“Red Army is a slick, witty, fast-moving blend of sports story and history lesson with clear appeal beyond the hockey-fan demographic. The tone is mostly light-hearted, but with splashes of personal tragedy and political intrigue to add grit.

“Interweaving scratchy archive footage from the 1970s and 1980s with handsomely shot contemporary interviews, Polsky talks to former superstar players, retired KGB officers, sports journalists and veteran bureaucrats. His star interview is Viacheslav "Slava" Fetisov, a former captain of the Soviet national team and double Olympic gold medal-winner, whose colorful life story gives the film its loose narrative spine. Fetisov's stellar career was full of triumph and tension, confrontations with his Communist bosses and bitter fall-outs with former sporting comrades.

“As the old USSR unraveled into political and financial bankruptcy, Fetisov declined hugely lucrative offers to defect to the NHL in North America, partly because he was being blackmailed to pay the bulk of his salary back to Russia. He was finally allowed to leave for a U.S. career with the New Jersey Devils and Detroit Red Wings, only to face red-baiting hostility and homesickness. In a neat ideological twist, the elegant collective teamwork that succeeded so brilliantly under Communism began to fall apart under the more brutal, individualistic playing style of the capitalist West. Like politics, sport is war by other means.

“Incorporating jokey vintage clips of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, plus stylish animated graphics that borrow from classic Soviet poster art, Red Army tells a juicy story with brio and bounce. Polsky serves up a hearty dish of comfort-food nostalgia for the simple certainties of the Cold War.” - Hollywood Reporter


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