Red Army – Gabe Polsky, Director

I was not sure what to expect from this movie but being a hockey fan and having grown up with Canada vs the Red Army I was intrigued. Luckily we had a chance to hear the director introduce the movie. He is a first generation American born in Chicago of Ukrainian parents who had grown up in the Soviet Union. He played hockey as a kid in Chicago and was also interested in his Ukrainian origins and this led him to consider making this movie focussed on the incredibly successful and skilled Red Army team of the 70’s and 80’s. The movie is less a hockey movie and much more an exploration of the soul of the Soviet society of the time. The protagonist of the film was Fetisov, likely the greatest hockey player of his time. A defenceman to challenge Bobby Orr as the greatest defensive player ever. Interestingly Fetisov refused to be interviewed for the film until the final day of filming when he agreed to give 15 minutes. This turned into 5 hours and two more subsequent sessions. This saved the movie because he is a tremendously charismatic figure who led the Red Army team as captain and… well there is much more that teaches you why Putin is so successful today and much much more about Russian society and thinking. There is much here to learn about hockey, why the Red Army team was so successful, how oppressive the regime was as well as the team leadership itself. There are some amazing lines from the interviews with players, former KGB agents, coaches and others. The one coach Tikhonov was particularly brutal and at one point one of the team members tells the interviewer that if he had to have a heart transplant he would want Tikhonov’s heart because he never used it. The film is full of lines like this and even if you don’t know or like hockey you will love this movie. It is simply a brilliant documentary and well worth your time. Highly recommended to all.

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