‘Red Army’ is the story of the Soviet Union’s world dominance in ice hockey during the Cold War and how it was used as a propaganda tool.
An engaging story that is as much about life in Russia then and now as it is about ice hockey, the documentary is presented out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
Director Gabe Polsky, a hockey player himself and the son or Russian immigrants, said it was the ‘Red Army’ team’s collective style on the ice that drew his interest, as opposed to the American game, which relied on brutal individuality.
“You, know I preferred this style of play and I think it really evolved sport and hockey to another level and that really piqued my interest about the Soviet Union and my roots, through hockey, and I wanted to explore why, how they got so good and what was going on over there,” said Polsky.
The film centres on Viacheslav Fetisov, a Red Army recruit at the age of eight, whose career spanned the key turning points in his country’s history, and who became one of the first to ‘defect’ to the US after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
At first, Fetisov wasn’t very keen on taking part in the documentary: “Gabe Polsky is a very talented kid, he tried to bring me into the film from the beginning. For some reason I didn’t like it though,” he said.
“But then the first time I met him for 15 minutes, well, that’s what he said, we ended up talking in front of (the) camera for six hours about the team, hockey, the political situation, life and stuff. They always called us the ‘red machines’, but we were human beings in the first place,” he added.
Produced by the dream-team of Werner Herzog and Jerry Weintraub, ‘Red Army’ is presented in the Special Screenings programme at the Cannes Film Festival.