Red Army Film Explores Hockey, The Cold War, and Sports as Propaganda

Filmmaker Gabe Polsky and Russian hockey star Slava Fetisov discuss the new documentary about the Soviet national hockey team.


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"The movie is about the Soviet Union and the greatest sports dynasty arguably in history, the Red Army hockey team, and the interrelationship between sports, politics, [and] society," says director Gabe Polsky, the filmmaker behind the critically acclaimed documentary Red Army, which has just been released after a wildly successful festival run. The film is a gripping look at the rise and fall of the dominant Soviet hockey team through the eyes of one of the team's brightest stars, Slava Fetisov

"The rest of the world called us Red Machine or Red Army, but we were not a machine," Fetisov explained during a Reason TV interview. "We were not robots."

Fetisov's decision to fight the restrictive, and at times ruthless, policies of the Communist regime supplies the backbone to the film, culminating in the hockey star being given the first multiple-entry work Visa to the United States and opening the door for other Russian players to come to the West. 

So why did the Soviets pour so much energy into their sports teams, fighting to keep their best players inside the system for so long? According to Gabe Polksy, it all stems from a very clear agenda at the heart of the Cold War. 

"I think sports is an easy way to reach people. I think the Soviet Union knew that…They wanted to spread Soviet ideology everywhere and when you see your team winning all the time people are going to start turning their heads and saying 'What the hell is going on over there? Why are they so good?"

But the Soviet sports system collapsed for the same reasons the Communist government ultimately fell, because at the core of any top down system are individuals with their own goals and desires. 

"Nobody pushed myself four times a day because I like the Communist system and support the revolution and shit like that," says Fetisov. "I played because I love the game. I work four times a day because I want to be number one in the world. That is a different philosophy."

Approx. 3:45 minutes. 

Produced and edited by Meredith Bragg. Camera by Austin Bragg. Narrated by Nick Gillespie. 

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