Wednesday, February 4, 2015

If You Like Great Sports Docs, Check Out Red Army

One subject I'd never considered looking further into in the past is the Russian athletic program of the Cold War... mostly because I assumed there wouldn't be much written about it given the iron curtain of said time. But damn if it isn't a compelling piece of history.
Red Army is Gabe Polsky's latest, and his first documentary feature. It chronicles the rise and fall of Russian hockey back when the USSR was still a thing. And that program's incredible level of dominance is something deserving of remembrance... Rather, those players are deserving of much  recognition. While the system that built them is responsible for getting them to that level, those players had to fight through the most adverse of circumstances to gain any sense of value from their achievements. When your country doesn't allow individual recognition, it can clearly hover over the people who are accomplishing great feats like a rain cloud. And their mentality will not always stick to the system that has kept them in check for all of those years when they learn of examples of other ways of life.
The obvious lead of this film is Vyacheslav Fetisov, a one-time captain of the Red Army team who currently holds a high-ranking position in the Russian government. He holds more accolades in hockey than you can count, so it's cool that he was willing to sit down for a documentary like this. Sometimes the world seems to get warmer when individuals prove themselves to be brave enough to discuss matters that at one time seemed shrouded in secrecy, you know? And to learn his story in such a succinct manner, with so much character attached, I felt a huge relief come over me to be living in the age I am now.
Polsky's Red Army may not be Oscar bound, but it's up for several other awards, and deservingly so. The film that made it to screen is just plain good. If you like sports documentaries, you'll definitely like this. But even if you're not normally a sports fan and perhaps (somehow) don't enjoy the occasional history lesson, I still suggest you give Red Army a chance. It's just damn good.

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