Coming to theatres this Friday, January 23: RED ARMY
Gabe Polsky’s chronicle of the Soviet Union’s premier ice hockey team debuted at Cannes last year. It went on to screen at Telluride, Toronto, DOC NYC, the New York Film Festival, Chicago, Zurich, Austin, Vancouver, Karlovy Vary, Atlantic, and the Hamptons, among others.
Even for non-fans of the sport, hockey became the must-see face-off between the US and the USSR in the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics. The victory of the underdog American team – the so-called “Miracle on Ice” – was jingoistically spun to speak volumes about the superiority of the country – and capitalism – over the Soviet system, nevermind that the Russian team went on to win back-to-back gold in the 1984 and 1988 games. Polsky’s vibrant film moves beyond the singular 1980 showdown to reflect on the history of the Red Army team, its players, and the power of sports within the USSR. At its center is Vyacheslav “Slava” Fetisov, the team captain, a bristly, cocksure, and often very funny protagonist who reflects on the rigor and effectiveness of Soviet training, and the bonds of brotherhood it forged. If this inside view of Soviet-era ideology through athleticism isn’t fascinating enough, Fetisov recounts the paradigmatic shift that took place for teammates with the collapse of the USSR – a swirl of NHL contracts, culture clash, betrayals, unexpected lows, and triumphant comebacks, both on the ice and off.