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Listen: Director Gabe Polsky and Hockey Legend Slava Fetisov Talk ‘Red Army’

Fetisov and Polsky at the Water Reade Theater. Photo by Arjeta Palevic.

[Listen to the full on-stage interview with Gabe Polsky and Slava Fetisov above.]

Moviegoers and hockey fans alike joined together to see Gabe Polsky’s exhilirating doc Red Army. The film follows the Soviet Union “Red Army” hockey team that strived to defeat the West every chance they got, embodying the Cold War through sport. Following a screening of the film, Polsky and hockey legend/subject of the film, Slava Fetisov, discussed the sport, and the personal, historical, and political significance it continues to hold.

Festisov, after serving as captain on the Red Army team, subsequently entered the NHL and won two Stanley Cups for the Detroit Red Wings. Since his career on the ice, he served as head coach for the Russian Olympic hockey team as well as the Russian Minister of Sport. “It was the best time in my life,” said Fetisov of his time on the Red Army team with members of multiple countries united by the Soviet Union, “to feel this international friendship and especially nowadays, when the world is so fragile and politicians sometimes not doing what they’re supposed to do, sports teams, especially hockey, can show how we can live together, fight for the ultimate goal, and have lots of fun.”

Filmmaker Polsky described the backstory of hockey in his own life and the inspiration for the film. In his younger days, Polsky played hockey competitively and practiced under the first Soviet coach in the U.S. “I got my hands on a VHS tape of the Soviet Union playing hockey in 1987 and I was spellbound. I was also confused at the same time. I felt it was a profound expression of human creativity, what they were doing on the ice. It was magical. It was something I had never seen before, like almost a religious experience for me at the time.”

“That caused me to get really curious about it. When I became a filmmaker, I looked into the story of Soviet hockey and I found that it was a much bigger story than just the hockey team. It was a story of the Soviet Union and the people. It was a story about de-friendship and betrayal. It was a story about Russia and Russians and their relationship with America, before and after the Cold War. Hockey was simply a window into a much larger story.”

Red Army screened as part of Spotlight on Documentary section at the 52nd New York Film Festival.

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