This week, BUFS is pleased to present Red Army.
Using the Soviet national hockey team to examine the politics of sport from Russia’s post-war period through the dissolution of the Soviet State and up to the current presidency of Vladmir Putin, Gabe Polsky’s Red Army traces victories and losses on and off the ice.
The film combines interviews and archive footage to weave together the story of a political machine that inspired Russian youth and created the Red Army hockey team during a period of propaganda and political tensions between the East and the West, as the film’s opening introduction by a pre-presidental Reagan more than suggests.
Polsky and his interviewees connect the team’s highs and lows to its coaches and their vastly differing approaches to hockey as a sport and as a nationalistic tool, respectively. It is by focussing on the Red Army’s youngest-ever team captain, Vyacheslav “Slava” Fetisov, that the film also tracks those cultural apprehensions that stuck with its players as they began to switch to the wealthy NHL teams that coaxed them out of the cash-poor USSR.
On the surface Red Army is a sports documentary about a hockey team that managed to mystify and outplay its Western opponents for the better part of a decade. However, Polsky’s film is about much more than hockey, offering audiences instances of insight into the Cold War Russian psyche. Those nervous about all this bubbling tension can relax—the film is cut together more with comedy than conspiracy.
Red Army screens Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Landmark Theatres, Pen Centre. Visit www.brocku.ca/bufs for details.