I’m not a sports fan, I’m a movie fanatic. The closest I’ve been to seeing a full game of hockey is “The Mighty Ducks” 1-3. So going in to see “Red Army” at the Middleburg Film Festival I was expecting to be bored by an archival documentary about a specific team in hockey’s past. Instead I was blown away by a fast paced, exciting film. “Red Army” is the perfect blend of sports drama, history lesson, and compelling cinematic storytelling!
The film focuses on the former Soviet Union’s Red Army hockey team. Director Gabriel Polsky brilliantly uses playful humor with the pre-baked dramatic themes of the Cold War, democracy vs. communism, and sports competition. The star of the film is Viacheslav Fetisov, the former captain of the Soviet national team, and he delivers first-hand commentary as we weave through time up to present day. Whether talking about the Red Army’s extreme work ethic and discipline, the thrill of winning Olympic Gold, or pain of failed and lost relationships, Fetisov is the heart and spine of the film. We also hear from other star players of the team, retired KGB officers, sports journalists, and government officials which gives the film a dual feel of a behind the scenes look at the hockey team and communism simultaneously.
Polsky shows his mastery of the medium using all the tools at his fingertips in a symbiotic effort to push the story forward. Lower thirds translate from Russian to English, the titles and awards of Fetisov quickly fill up every inch of the frame around him showing just how talented he was, Russian tunes compliment the visually silly but amazing work out routines of child hockey soldiers! He dollies the camera in to cap off an interview at times throughout the film, making the interviewee and viewer on edge, but many times evoking a priceless reaction from the on camera talent.
“Red Army” ultimately gives us a glimpse at how much can change in one lifetime. Whether it’s the change of thinking/regime from the USSR to Russia’s current state, Fetisov’s personal life from “child soldier” to holding the position of Minister of Sport in Russia for a time, or the sport of hockey itself, the film speaks to our ability as humans to learn, grow and change. Whether you're a sports fan or not, it’s a must see documentary!
Check out the live Q&A after the film: