Gabe Polsky makes his solo feature debut with this informative, tightly constructed, good looking, and fast paced look at the famed Russian Red Army hockey club during their heyday in the 70s and 80s.
Primarily using interviews only from a scant few select hockey journalists, former NHL coach Scotty Bowman, and primarily from the team members who played for a club where national pride was even bigger than the sport being played, the film chronicles the rise and fall of a Communist state run club that could have any players they wanted from their empire, but struggled to keep up as Russia tended away from its political ideals in the lead up to the union breaking up. It also looks at how Russian players were greeted with less than open arms when they were finally allowed to make the leap to the NHL.
There’s a heck of a lot of style to the graphics being employed and a surprising amount of dramatic weight comes from how cinematic Polsky is able to make even the simplest of talking head interviews look. He also gets a huge assist from former Red Army star player and current Russian Minister of Sport Slava Fetisov, who’s fascinatingly candid and guarded about what he says at the same time. He’s also cranky and prone to flipping out on Polsky or just ignoring him if he doesn’t feel like answering anything. He might be the star of the film, but the real emphasis is on the unit, which is exactly where it should be. (Andrew Parker)
Tuesday, September 9th, 6:00pm, Ryerson Theatre
Wednesday, September 10th, 11:45am, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema