CANNES, France — Viacheslav “Slava” Fetisov has had a storied hockey career — including two Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings — but he was initially reluctant to see it documented with a movie.
“He tried to bring me into the film from the beginning,” said Fetisov of director Gary Polsky. “For some reason I didn’t like it though.”
Polsky eventually won him over, and the result is “Red Army,” which is being shown at the Cannes Film Festival out of competition.
The movie explores the social and cultural changes in the Soviet Union, then Russia, through the experiences of the national hockey team, and the life of its superstar captain, Fetisov.
Polsky's first impressions of the "Red Army" team were their balletic style of play, compared to the more brutish style practiced in the United States.
"You, know I preferred this style of play and I think it really evolved sport and hockey to another level," said the director in an interview here last week. "That really piqued my interest about the Soviet Union and my roots, through hockey, and I wanted to explore why, how they got so good and what was going on over there."
Though the film features interviews with former teammates, Fetisov -- who won medals including gold for his country but was on the losing side of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" Olympic hockey final won by the underdog United States -- is the focus. It touches on his falling out with his Russian coach over his decision to play professional hockey in the United States and being branded an enemy in his native country.
It also touches on his difficult transition in America.
"And even though I don't speak any English, when you walk in the dressing room, you can feel that people don't like you here, you can feel how they do stuff and you ask yourself why you're here, you know," he said in an interview.
Eventually, he became more settled, won two National Hockey League championships for the Red Wings and even was an assistant coach. He later returned to Russia to become the Minister of Sport.
Now a member of the Federal Assembly of Russia, he helped Russia get the winning bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Despite the controversy that followed, with protests over Russian legislation branded as anti-gay, Fetisov is hugely proud of the Sochi games.
"I spend the all two weeks in Sochi during the Winter Olympic games and for me it doesn't matter what kind of result on the sports field, I see the new facilities, I see the happy people on the street and venues in the Olympic Park, I see the volunteers from around the country who came, young people came to help run the Olympic games," he said. "They take pride, they try to show the new Russia for the rest of the world, it was so nice and people admit this and I talk to my friends from IOC and they say, 'You were right, Slava, you got the best ever Olympic for the winter sports,' and we could be proud