Red Army

By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on September 07, 2014

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Dear TIFF,

I'm a huge fan of Hot Docs - Toronto's other world-renowned film festival - but it usually signals something special when you TIFF folks land a documentary premiere. And that's exactly the case for Gabe Polsky's Red Army.

This is a truly great sports film, and certainly the best hockey doc of all-time.

Polsky chronicles the Russian superstars who came to fame during the late 70s and found unstoppable dominance in the 80s. Through fantastically paced editing, striking graphical treatments, mounds of archival footage and new interviews with Vladislav Tretiak, Alexei Kasatonov and, most entertainingly, Vyacheslav Fetisov, we learn what it was really like to play for the Soviet Union's powerhouse hockey club.

Enlisted as actual soldiers and forced to live in barracks away from their families for 11 months a year, the film uses hockey as the perfect prism through which to examine Cold War culture. The story continues all the way to the first Russians playing in the NHL, but never stretches back far enough to even mention the '72 Summit Series, which Canadians believe to be the definitive international hockey showdown. Not the case. The film proves there's a tonne more rich hockey history to be found in subsequent years, and that the '72 Summit was only one battle in a great sporting war.



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