Friday, February 6, 2015


Red Army

Red Army official site The mix of sports and politics is hardly new in history. Arguably called China's national sport in the '70s, ping-pong thawed the U.S.-China relation. In the formal Soviet Union, ice-hokey is more than a national sport, it's a national pride and a magnet for patriotism, and it's at the center of the directory Gabe Polsky's fascinating and entertaining documentary "Red Army" (USA 2014 | in Russian/English | 85 min.). However, the film's true subject is not about the sport, but about its players—the legendary Red Army Team, and the politics surrounding them. Just like a fast moving ice-hockey game, the filmmaker sleekly presents a remarkable story told by the charismatic team captain Viacheslav "Slava" Fetisov ( Вячеслав "Слава" Фетисов).

Confident, intelligent, cocky, tough, articulate, and funny Slava is more than just a gifted hockey player, he is a national hero. After years of intense training by Viktor Tikhonov, he led his five-member Red Army Team to become the National Team and won numerous titles around the world. The fluid harmony and impeccable coordination they exhibited on ice earned them the reputation as the best hockey team ever existed. The harsh training they received not only intended to build their skill and strength, but also to eliminate their individuality and to melt them into one unbeatable unit.

But that was during the Soviet era while the team's medals were regarded as a vindication of socialist's superiority. When the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, the team also fell apart. The team's players became hot commodity sought by the National Hockey League (NHL) in the US and Canada. Would they shine their glory like when they were together before?

Red Army Official Site

Born in the US to his Soviet immigrant parents, the filmmaker Gabe Polsky apparently knows his material comprehensively. He seamlessly blends amusing animation with a vast amount of historical footage to clearly and rapidly present the story behind the legendary hockey team. Despite the beautiful and nostalgia melodies (including the most familiar "Подмосковные вечера") in the background, the film isn't about recalling the old time when the Red Army Team ruled on ice. It's a compelling study about the relationship between sport and politics, individualism and collectivism, socialism and capitalism, patriotism and opportunism, loyalty and apostasy. Although the subject matter is ambitions, the film doesn't contain a single dull moment regardless you are a fan of hockey or not, and it has plenty delightful humor, high drama, and surprising excitement.

Slava's candid interviews also greatly contribute to the film's success. His strong personality, his enormous sacrifice, his remarkable talent, and his political instinct made himself a mesmerizing and fascinating character. This film offers a rare opportunity for him to tell his side's story, which is not to be missed.

"Red Army," a Sony Pictures Classics release, opens on Friday, February 6, 2015 in San Francisco Bay Area.

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